Christians, Hindus divided over temple possession
* Temple Committee information secretary says temple built by community ancestors
* Subhar Sudha programme director says Hindus should control temple
By Ali Usman
LAHORE: The Balmiki Temple situated in Anarkali has become the focal point of a feud between converted Christians and Hindus, each claiming full rights to the temple, with Christian converts currently retaining control of the site.
The ancestors of the Balmiki Christians, who currently have possession of the temple, converted to Christianity from Hinduism about 30 years ago, but are still affiliated with the Swami Balmik, for whom the temple was built. They maintain that they have full rights to the temple despite being Christians, and will not give it up.
Conversely, the Hindu Sudhar Sabha, an association of Lahore’s Hindu population, has alleged that the Christians caretakers harass them and prevent them from worshipping in the temple. They claim that their actions have made the temple the site of a hub of activities that are against the respect of the temple. However, the Christians claim that they do not want any ‘occupier’ to intervene in the internal affairs of the temple.
A committee of Christians who look into its financial and other related affairs currently runs the Balmiki Temple independently. However, the shops outside the temple are rented out by the Auqaf Department. A few years, when the Baber Masjid in India was demolished in India, some protestors partially demolished the temple in retaliation. However, it was repaired afterwards.
Heritage: Imran Maqsood, introducing himself as the information secretary of the Temple Committee, told Daily Times that the temple was built by his community’s ancestors and they would not allow anyone to take possession of it. He claimed that the Hindu Sudhar Sabha had tried to occupy the temple and interfere in the temple’s affairs. He said that even though his community had converted to Christianity, their affiliation and goodwill towards Swami Balmiki was still unchanged. A worshipper at the temple, Baghat Lal Kokhar, who is Christian by faith, said that his community still worshipped at the temple and did not bar anyone from doing the same. However, he added, they would not tolerate any interference in the temple’s affairs.
Hindu Sudhar Sabha President Heera Lal told Daily Times that it was illogical to have a Hindu Temple run by Christians. He said that the temple was not the personal property of anyone and the converts had no right to retain it after changing their faith.
Convert: Hindu Sudhar Sabha Programme Director Amar Nath Randhwa said that the Balmiki Temple had no qualified pandit. He said that if the Christians who had possession of the temple wanted to keep it under their control, they should convert to Hinduism. He alleged that when Hindus tried to worship at the temple, the Christians there hooted at them and teased their women. He claimed that they had turned the temple into an adda. He said that the Sudhar Sabha had taken the issue to Minority Affairs Minister Kamran Michael, who had ordered an inquiry into the matter. He said that the inquiry should be expedited, adding that a Hindu delegation would also visit Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for a solution to the issue. He said that the government should seriously look into the matter to avoid any untoward incident.
Talking to Daily Times, the residents of the area said that the temple dispute should be solved with justice. They said that it should be ensured that no one’s religious feelings are hurt.
Baba Guru Balmik Swami was a Hindu scholar, saint and writer of Ramayana. He is supposed to have been the re-incarnation of Jagat Guru in Hinduism. He was born around 60,000 years before Sri Ram Chander (a Hindu god). Guru Wasdat was Ram’s Guru and Guru Bardawaj was Wasdat’s Guru and Swami was Bardawaj’s Guru. Hindus believe water was Swami’s father and Bhanwar was his mother.