Lahore: A 1,200-year-old Hindu temple in Pakistan’s Lahore city will be restored after “illegal occupants” were evicted from it following a lengthy court battle, the federal body overseeing minority worship places in the country said on Wednesday. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) last month retrieved the possession of Valmiki Mandir (temple) situated near the famous Anarkali Bazaar Lahore from a Christian family.
Besides Krishna Temple, Valmiki Temple is the only functional temple in Lahore. The Christian family, which claims to have converted to Hinduism, had been facilitating only the Valmiki caste Hindus for worship at the temple for the last two decades.
ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi said that Valmiki Temple will be restored in accordance with a ‘master plan’ in the coming days. “Over 100 Hindus, some Sikh and Christian leaders today gathered at the Valmiki Temple. Hindus performed their religious rituals and had lungar (food) for the first time it was retrieved from the grabbers,” he said.
The Christian family had grabbed the temple more than twenty years ago. An ETPB official told Dawn newspaper, the temple’s land was transferred to the ETPB in the revenue record, but the family in 2010-2011, claiming to be the owner of the property, filed a case in the civil court.
He said besides going into litigation, the family also made the temple only for the Valmiki Hindus. This left the trust with no option but to fight the case in court. “This time, the court also reprimanded the petitioner for false claims,” the official added.
In 1992, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in India, an angry mob wielding weapons stormed into the Valmiki Temple. It smashed the idols of Krishna and Valmiki, broke utensils and crockery in the kitchen and seized the gold with which the statues were embellished.
The temple was demolished to rubble and the building was set on fire. The shops in the neighbourhood also caught fire and it took days for the authorities to extinguish the flames.
The ETPB spokesman told Dawn newspaper that a one-man commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan presented its recommendations to the government, stating that the temple must be renovated to provide better workshop facilities to the Hindu community.
But the ETPB, in the wake of the litigation, was unable to start restoration work at the temple constructed on over 10 marla land worth millions in the heart of the city, the spokesperson said.
The ETPB looks after the temples and land left over by Sikhs and Hindus who migrated to India after the Partition. It oversees 200 gurdwaras and 150 temples across Pakistan.