Lahore: A federal body on Thursday said that a 1,200-year-old Hindu temple in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, has been formally opened after it was reclaimed by a Christian family following an extended legal battle. In Pakistan, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) oversees minority worship places.
Last month, ETPB reclaimed the Valmiki Temple, located near the famous Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, from the “illegal occupants” that had seized it over two decades ago.
Other than Krishna Temple, Valmiki Temple is the only Hindu temple in Lahore that is functional.
For the last two decades, the Christian family, which claims to have converted to Hinduism, had been allowing only the Valmiki caste Hindus to worship at the temple.
As per ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi, over 100 Hindus, some Sikh, Christian and Muslim leaders attended the inauguration ceremony of the Valmiki Temple on Wednesday.
Hashmi told PTI on Thursday that Hindu devotees performed their religious rituals. “Valmiki Temple will be fully restored in accordance with a master plan in the coming days,” said the spokesperson.
ETPB said the temple’s land had been transferred to it in the revenue record, but the family, in 2010-2011, filed a case in a civil court claiming ownership.
It added that the family not only went into litigation but also made the temple exclusively for Valmiki Hindus.
Consequently, ETPB was left with no choice but to fight the case in court.
“This time, the court also reprimanded the petitioner for false claims,” the ETPB added.
Krishan Sharma, the president of Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee (PHMMC), described the ETPB’s move as a goodwill gesture and a step towards mainstreaming the community, and added that it should be commended, reported Dawn.
“The role of Valmikis is very significant in Hindu mythology; had they not written the Ramayan, no one would know Ram. Earlier, this temple was not being used for worship, those possessing it didn’t allow anyone to enter. But now, every Hindu can come in and pray,” said Sharma.
“We’re making efforts to promote religious tourism and rehabilitate many other temples and religious sites across the country. There are issues everywhere in the world, which are exploited by inimical forces in the region. So, such steps could silence them and counter their narrative,” he added.
A mob wielding weapons stormed the Valmiki Temple in 1992. Besides smashing the idols of Krishna and Valmiki, the crowd destroyed the utensils and crockery in the kitchen and seized the gold that adorned the statues.
A fire was set in the building and the temple was demolished. Several shops in the area caught fire, and it took days for the authorities to put out the blaze.
The ETPB spokesman told Dawn that a one-person Commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan recommended to the government that the temple be renovated.
As a result of the litigation, the ETPB was unable to start restoration work at the temple which was built on 0.025 hectares in the heart of the city.
Source : Times Now News