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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