A 1,200-year-old Hindu temple in Pakistan has been opened to the public after being taken over by illegal occupiers

A 1,200-year-old Hindu temple here in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province has officially opened to the public after being reclaimed from a Christian family following a long court battle, according to a federal agency.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the federal body responsible for overseeing minority places of worship in Pakistan, last month repossessed possession of the Valmiki Temple located near the famous Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore from a Christian family. , which seized the place of worship more than two decades ago.

Besides Krishna Temple, Valmiki Temple is the only functional Hindu temple in Lahore.

The Christian family, who claim to have converted to Hinduism, had only facilitated Hindus of the Valmiki caste for worship at the temple for the past two decades.

ETPB spokesman Amir Hashmi said the Valmiki Temple was officially opened on Wednesday with more than 100 Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Muslim leaders gathered to celebrate the occasion.

Speaking to PTI on Thursday, Hashmi said Hindu worshipers performed their religious rituals and had langar (food) for the first time it was scavenged from catchers.

“Valmiki Temple will be fully restored according to a master plan in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

The ETPB said the temple land was transferred to it in the revenue register, but the 2010-2011 family, claiming ownership of the property, filed a lawsuit in civil court.

Apart from filing lawsuits, the family also built the temple just for Hindus in Valmiki, he added.

This left the ETPB no choice but to take the case to court.

“This time the court also reprimanded the claimant for misrepresentation,” the ETPB added.

Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee (PHMMC) Chairman Krishan Sharma said the ETPB decision was a goodwill gesture and also a step towards community integration and should be applauded, the newspaper reported. dawn.

The Valmiki sect of Hindus are a poor segment of society who have no say or access, Sharma explained, adding that they have now regained access to this temple.

“The role of Valmikis is very important in Hindu mythology; if they had not written the Ramayan, no one would know Ram. Previously, this temple was not used for worship, those who owned it did not let anyone in. But now every Hindu can come in and pray,” he added.

“We are working to promote religious tourism and rehabilitate many other temples and religious sites across the country. There are problems all over the world, which are being exploited by enemy forces in the region. So such measures could silence them and counter their narrative,” Sharma added.

In 1992, following the demolition of Babri Masjid in India, an angry mob wielding weapons burst into the temple of Valmiki. He smashed the idols of Krishna and Valmiki, broke the kitchen utensils and dishes, and seized the gold with which the statues were adorned.

The temple was demolished and the building burned down. Businesses in the neighborhood also caught fire and it took days for authorities to extinguish the flames.

The ETPB spokesperson told the Dawn newspaper that a one-person commission appointed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan presented its recommendations to the government, saying the temple should be renovated to provide better facilities for workshop to the Hindu community.

But the ETPB, as a result of the litigation, was unable to begin restoration work on the temple built on 0.025 hectares worth millions in the heart of the city, the spokesperson said.

The ETPB cares for the temples and lands left behind by Sikhs and Hindus who migrated to India after partition. He oversees 200 Gurdwaras and 150 temples across Pakistan.

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