On Tuesday, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan shut down Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh in Lahore for worship, declaring that it is a mosque. Pakistan’s ETPB, together with certain fundamental extremists, locked down the Gurdwara, infuriating the Sikh community in the neighbouring Islamic country.
Evacuee Trust Property Board is a statutory body under the Government of Pakistan that administers property left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India during the partition. It was formed in 1960 following the Nehru-Liaqat Pact in 1950 and Pant Mirza Agreement in 1955.
According to the reports, the controversy over the existence of Gurdwara situated in Lahore has been long-running now. Notably, a large number of devotees from the Sikh community attend the Gurdwara daily to recite the Guru Granth Sahib. The Gurdwara, which is located in the Shaheed Ganj Naloukha region, has a lengthy and tumultuous history and is believed to be a source of friction between the city’s Sikhs and Muslims.
The Gurdwara was constructed in the place where Sikh fighter Bhai Taru Singh was executed in 1745 by the Mughals. The Gurdwara was built on the grounds where the Shaheed Ganj Mosque existed earlier. This has led to the dispute that continues even today. While the Gurdwara was built in 1747, the mosque also remained in place for a long time, while the dispute between Muslims and Sikhs were heard by courts under British rule. But the mosque was demolished by a group of Sikhs in 1935, which led to communal riots.
The gurdwara is located just outside the walls of Lahore, in a locality known as Nalaukha, which is said to have previously hosted Prince Dara Shikoh’s renowned palace. According to the report, Shikoh served as governor of Lahore before being assassinated by his younger brother, Aurangzeb.
The Sikhs hold that under the instructions of Mir Mannu, the governor of Lahore and a representative of the Mughal Empire, hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children from the community were massacred at this location.
The Sikhs allege that Mir Mannu personally authorized them to build a gurdwara here after they promised to assist him in the conquering of Multan at the request of Diwan Kaura Mal, who was afterward granted command of Multan by Mir Mannu, according to the story. Muslims, on the other hand, claim that once the Mughal Empire fell, the Sikhs forcibly took over the mosque, which was still operational. It is notable that After the fall of the Mughal empire, the Sikh empire was established in Punjab.
This is not the first time Pakistan has closed down a Gurdwara and declared it an Islamic place of worship. A similar event occurred two years ago when a major Gurdwara was designated as a mosque, forcing Indian officials to intercede and file a protest in the matter. India had previously maintained that the Gurdwara is a site of devotion, and the Sikh community regards it as ‘sacred.’