PESHAWAR: Minority groups protested in the city on Saturday to demand the protection of their places of worship which are now being turned into offices, parks and residential areas.
“Attempts are being made to remove signs of our religious and hereditary places. Who has given the right to Evacuee Trust Property Board to sell our religious property to anyone?” All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairperson Haroon Sarbdiyal told The Express Tribune while protesting on Saturday in Kashmir Colony, in the city, where three temples and a small gurdwara stand.
“Where is the government of Pakistan?” he asked. “Aren’t we the citizens of this country or are we a third nation of this region?”
The protest was an outcome of an attempt made by the land mafia to demolish three temples and a small gurdwara of Asamai Gate for the construction of a commercial plaza. Sarbdiyal and the residents of Kashmir Colony said the land of Asamai temple was sold to members of the Shinwari tribe from Khyber Agency.
“They are knocking down our temples which are sacred for us,” Sarbdiyal said. “These cultural sites can help make revenue for the country as so many Hindu and Sikh yatris and tourists can visit them, but instead of being respected, the land is being sold to mafias.” Monisha, another protester, told The Express Tribune people living there were not disturbing them.
“All we want is the protection of these sacred places as we do not want them to be demolished.”
She urged the government of Pakistan hand over the entire religious place to the people concerned.
Asamai is named after a goddess of hope, Asha. There are two Asamai temples in the world – one is in Afghanistan and the other in Pakistan. At the time of Partition, the government did not transfer the property to Hindus, but instead gave it to Kashmir immigrants. Muslim migrants have lived in Kashmir Colony for generations. They do not want to leave the place where they have lived for so long. However, the district administration sealed the temples and gurdwara.
Iftikhar Hussain, a Kashmir Colony resident, told The Express Tribune, the government should protect sacred sites.
“But they cannot seal the houses with our homes inside them.”
He added his wife was eight months pregnant and her medical certificate was inside the house sealed by the government.
To prevent the issue from escalating, the additional district commissioner sealed the gurdwara and temples five days ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2016.