Demolition of Hindu temple triggers protest in Rawalpindi

The demolition of part of an 87-year-old temple triggered protests by the minority Hindu community in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi before authorities said they would prevent the rest of the shrine from being pulled down.

Hundreds of Hindus were joined by Muslim residents when they took to the streets to protest the demolition of a large section of the temple by a man who had leased the structure from the Auqaf Department, an autonomous body of the Provincial Government.

The temple on Tipu Road, opposite the Rawalpindi Medical College, is located near a 'shamshan ghat' or cremation ground.

It was built in 1923 by Lala Tansukh Rai, the Raees-e-Azam of Rawalpindi, in memory of his wife.

Muslim residents of the area joined Hindu and Sikh protesters to express solidarity with them and blocked the road for an hour.

Following an assurance from police that the demolition would be stopped, the protesters dispersed.

Channa Lal, the chief Hindu priest for Rawalpindi and Islamabad, said that religious rites were performed at the temple before bodies were cremated at the shamshan ghat.

Hindu Sabha president Jag Mohan said local residents noticed some labourers demolishing the structure and digging up its foundations yesterday morning.

Jag Mohan said he and some other people went to the site and asked the labourers to stop the work and produce orders authorising them to demolish the temple.

The staff of the Auqaf Department too said the labourers were not allowed to demolish the building, he added. Before partition in 1947, the 'shamshan ghat' was spread over 277 kanals of land.

When a majority of Hindus migrated from Rawalpindi, the families that stayed behind handed over surplus land to the government for educational purposes during President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's tenure.

The total area of the shamshan ghat and the temple complex now was over two kanals, Jag Mohan said.

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