Hindu temple in Pakistan reopens after 60 years

A historic Hindu temple has reopened after 10 years in Peshawar after a woman devotee fought a long legal battle.

Islamabad: Hindus celebrated Diwali at a
historic 160-year-old temple at Peshawar in northwest Pakistan
after it was reopened to the minority community after six
decades on a court`s orders.

Scores of Hindus, including women and children, visited
the Goraknath temple at Gor Khatri, which was reopened after
Phool Wati, the daughter of the shrine`s cleric, petitioned
the Peshawar High Court.

Children and youths wearing colourful clothes were part
of the gathering. The children burst crackers while the youths
sang bhajans and danced.

Phool Wati and her son Kaka Ram have claimed that the
temple, which has been controlled in past decades by the
police, Evacuee Property Trust Board and the provincial
archaeology department, belongs to their family.

Though a two-judge bench of the High Court ruled last
month that Phool Wati had failed to provide evidence of her
family’s ownership of the temple, it directed authorities to
reopen the shrine for religious purposes.

The court observed that stopping religious activities at
a place of worship was against all laws.
Kamla Rani, the daughter of Phool Wati, was grateful to
the authorities for reopening the temple.

"I am very happy that my mother, though very old, fought
a legal battle to reopen this temple for Hindu worshippers,"
she told the media.

She said she had good relations with Hindus, Sikhs,
Christians and Muslims in her neighbourhood. "I don`t feel
that I am different from others living in Peshawar."

Noting that the temple was reopened due to the joint
efforts of the Hindu community, Kamla Rani said: "You can`t
imagine how happy we feel today."

Kaka Ram said his father, Pandit Kamoram, had refused to
move to India at the time of Partition in 1947 and decided to
settle in Pakistan.

"However, after his death in 1960, we were not able to
protect our property and it was taken over by the
authorities," he told local journalists.

The temple is small and surrounded by nine rooms on two
sides. The white temple with three domes in the middle of an
enclosure has two small rooms with statues of deities.

Red, black and yellow pennants and flags have been
hoisted over the temple.

Peshawar Hindu Balmik Sabha leader Ram Lal said a
majority of Hindus in the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
province are Balmiks and have only three temples, two of which
were closed.

Sikhs and Hindus were engaged in a legal battle over a
shrine in Royal Artillery Bazar and the Kali Bari temple is
the only shrine currently open to Hindus.

In his book "Peshawar: Past and Present", noted historian
S M Jaffar wrote that the Gor Khatri temple was identified as
a place of pilgrimage where Hindus performed the `Sardukahr`
or shaving of head ritual.

Pervez Iqbal, the counsel for Phool Wati, said
authorities had given Hindus the keys of the temple only for
celebrating Diwali.

He said the Hindus were "hurt" to hear that they had to
return the keys.

The provincial archaeology department will continue to
control the temple.

The buildings vacated by Hindus at the time of Partition
were taken over by the Auqaaf Department and leased out later.

"We should be given back our buildings. We should be
given shelter and religious freedom," said Lajwanti, a former
councillor from Nowshera.