Pvt company`s excavation threatens ancient Hindu temple in Pak
Last Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 21:55
  
Islamabad: A private company's excavation for granite deposits in Pakistan's southern Sindh province is posing a threat to an ancient Hindu temple and has triggered protests by local residents.

The company began excavating a hill near the Durga Mata temple in Choryo village of Tharparkar district with heavy machinery and dynamite about a month ago.

The excavation was launched as pilgrims from Nepal, India and other countries came to the temple to attend the annual 'Sardaro mela' in February, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

The 'yatris' or pilgrims found that the path leading to the temple was destroyed.

"Pieces of rock were scattered all around and heavy machinery loomed ominously and silently nearby," the report said.

The three-day Shivratri mela that began on February 2 became an occasion for protests by local residents.

"We found that the way leading up to the temple is also destroyed. The hill is being sawed into from all sides, we're afraid our temple will be damaged," Veerjhi Kohli, a resident of Choryo, told the daily.

Local residents said contractor Abdullah Qureshi was given control of the hill on lease by the Sindh government.

Qureshi is "busy blasting through huge chunks of the hill at the bottom of the temple to extract granite while the pilgrims watch on in horror," the report said.

Kohli said Hindus cremated their dead and saved their ashes till Shivratri to be scattered into holy water.

While Pakistan's richer Hindus go to India and release their loved one's remains into the Ganges, those who cannot afford the trip come to Tharparkar.

The Durga Mata temple is one of two shrines where Hindus always go and pay their respects on Shivratri, making it a significant part of their religion.

According to Kohli, around 200,000 pilgrims flock to the temple for the festival.

Though the excavation for granite stopped during Sardaro mela, the pilgrims were dismayed by the digging.

They organised a protest but "in a place as remote as this, no media came, there was no notice", said a disappointed Kohli, adding "Only one newspaper picked it up as a small story".

The local residents have had little success so far in their efforts to stop the digging. The contractor said he had a lease for the activity.

The local "mukhtiarkar" and district administration chief said they have no authority in the matter.

A legislator has promised his support for efforts to stop the excavation. "He said the digging will be stopped," Kohli said.

The daily reported that officials were "quick to deny, shift the blame or simply stay quiet".

Sindh's Culture Department Director Muhammad Ali Manjhi said they would "never dig around a heritage site".

However, he said "it is possible" that such digging was going on, though the Culture Department had nothing to do with it as it would only excavate for archaeological purposes.

Tharparkar district administration chief Shakeel Zaman was tight-lipped on the issue and said: "I have asked for a report from the revenue department. I will share details once the report is given."

PTI


First Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 21:55


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