A common worship place for Muslim and Sikh communities in Pakistan’s city of Lahore came into limelight when people belonging to latter faith were reportedly barred from their own temple by local authorities.
The incident was highlighted by the Express Tribune in Pakistan and the news was later also reported by various Indian newspapers including the Times of India and many other Indian online news sites. The majority of the followers of the Sikh religion live in India.
According to the news report the worship place, Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh, in Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore, provincial metropolis of Pakistan’s province Punjab, was built to honour the memory of a Sikh saint who was executed in 1745 on the orders of the Mughal governor of Punjab, Zakaria Khan. Every July, the Sikh community has held religious ceremonies in this temple to commemorate his sacrifice in the service of humanity.
The report also claims that control of the temple (the place of worship) was taken over by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan after Partition which took place in 1947 and the Sikh community was allowed to continue using the place with relatively few restrictions.
According to the report, four years ago “a gang of young men from the Dawat-e-Islami, a Barelvi proselytising group, claimed that the gurdwara was located on the site of the burial place of a fifteenth century Muslim saint, Pir Shah Kaku” and since then both the communities were allowed to use the place for worship.
The report further highlighted that on July 16, 2011 the Sikhs were barred from observing celebrations as the local Muslim community had planned to celebrate holy day of Shab-e-Barat on July 18.
The incident however attracted condemnation from different quarters in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also slammed barring of the Sikhs from the temple. According to the HRCP statement issued on July 19, which is also available on the its website, “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with concern barring of Sikhs from a gurdwara in Lahore and called the restriction by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) scandalous and a violation of fundamental rights.”
“Police deployment to prevent the congregation at the gurdwara was shocking, ill-advised and entirely uncalled for. The ETPB has no right to ask members of a religious faith to postpone rituals of their faith inside their places of worship, or to give precedence to religious rituals of one faith over another”, the HRCP said while adding “HRCP calls upon the government to immediately take measures to ensure that the Sikh community’s right to observance of their faith is not interfered with by state or non-state actors.”
However ETPB officials and some Sikh leaders representing their community in Pakistan while talking to a local TV channel and the Times of India said that Sikhs had, voluntarily, postponed their celebrations and no one was barred from entering the temple that day.
It is also important to mention here that Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) have been entrusted with the maintenance of historical and holy sites of Sikhs in Pakistan.
Every year hundreds of Sikh pilgrims come to Pakistan to perform their religious rituals at their holy sites. Besides many religious celebrations and rituals Sikhs from across the world come to Pakistan every year to birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Dev ji, the founder of Sikh religion who was born at Nankana Sahib, a Pakistani city in the province of Punjab.
According to Sikh Tourism website there are around 150 historical and important Gurudwaras in Pakistan.