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Naeem Sahoutara | The Express Tribune | Karachi | February 23, 2014:: Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has taken suo motu notice of the alleged denial of access to members of the Hindu community to a century-old temple located in Tando Adam, The Express Tribune has learnt.
A three-member bench of the apex court is expected to take up the matter at its Karachi registry on February 25. Reports have been called from the provincial government’s culture and heritage department. Meanwhile, Jacobabad’s deputy commissioner has filed a report to the apex court ahead of the proceedings. According to the commissioner, the Amrapur Asthan has been declared a protected heritage and historical site by the Sindh Culture, Tourism and Antiquities department through an official notification issued on November 7, 2013. “There is no hindrance to the minority community with regard to their religious practice and they are free to worship in the temple,” the commissioner stated in the report. “In fact, a birthday/religious annual function was also held during June 2013 in the temple by the minority community.”
The report further states that people of the Hindu community have also requested for permission to construct a boundary wall around the temple with their own resources. The request has been forwarded to the culture, tourism and antiquities department.
A member of the Hindu community, Reejho Mal, had taken the provincial chief secretary, culture secretary and a government school’s administration to court last year for allegedly blocking the Hindu community’s access to the place of worship – Amrapur Asthan of Prem Prakash Panth.
This site, which is spread over seven acres, houses a historic temple and a samadhi – or final resting place- of Swami Teenu Ram Maharaj, who had laid down the foundation of ashrams or Hindu spiritual centres.
The petitioner had said that the samadhi and the temple are important religious places visited by devotees from across the country and abroad.
“Because of the law and order situation during the late 1950s, most Hindu families fled the area,” he recalled. “The provincial government allotted a portion of the temple’s land to the education department, which established Dr Ziauddin Primary School there.”
The petitioner had alleged in his plea that the school’s administration, particularly the headmaster, was hostile towards members of the Hindu community. He (headmaster) had not been allowing members of the minority group to enter the place of worship and perform rituals, according to Mal.
He had claimed that in October 2012, the school’s administration had manhandled visiting Hindu pilgrims and did not let them enter the holy place, adding that a hostile group was also desecrating the sacred structures.
Several applications were sent to the authorities, asking them to ensure that Hindu community members get access to the temple and declare it as a protected heritage building. “Article 36 of the Constitution ensures right of free access to one’s worship place without any hindrance from the other,” argued Mal. “Since this place bears historical and archaeological importance, it must be declared as protected heritage under Section 6 of the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994.”
The high court judges were pleaded to declare that it was illegal for the school’s administration to prevent members of his community from practicing their religion by blocking access to the temple.
Later on, a social welfare organisation also joined the proceedings, claiming that a temple did not exist at the site. Muhammad Azam Qureshi, the organisation’s representative, had alleged that the school was built at a spot on which a guest house comprising between 40 and 50 rooms once stood. He had pleaded to the court to dismiss the petitioner’s claim.
After hearing the arguments, the SHC had ordered in March 2013 the government official and the school’s management should ensure that Hindu community members can enter the temple freely. The provincial law officer was ordered to submit comments of government officials by this date.
Courtesy: The Express Tribune.