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A Goodwill Gesture

The 1,200-year-old Valmiki Temple in Pakistan shall be restored, after a long legal battle. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) – a statutory board of the Government of Pakistan that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who had migrated to India after the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 – recently confirmed the news, saying in a statement that a Christian family had forcefully occupied the temple near Anarkali Market in Lahore nearly 20 years ago. It may be noted that the ETPB recovered the temple from the family in July 2022.

According to the ETPB, members of the Christian family claimed that they had become Hindus, through the ritual of conversion. After taking possession of the temple two decades ago, they allowed only the Valmiki sect of Hindus to worship there. Meanwhile, the Judiciary has allowed everyone to enter the temple after a long legal battle.

Pakistani Police guarding the Valmiki Temple

ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi has informed the Press Trust of India (PTI) that Valmiki Temple was formally inaugurated on August 3, 2022 in the presence of more than 100 Hindus, some Sikh, Christian and Muslim leaders, who gathered there to celebrate the occasion. A senior ETPB official said that the concerned authorities in Pakistan’s Punjab Province had handed over the temple to the Board as per the land revenue records of the property. However, the Christian family claimed ownership of the temple and its adjoining land in 2010. The family also filed a case in a Civil Court regarding this matter. At the end of the hearing, the court has reportedly said that the Christian family had filed a case, not on the basis of genuine reasons.

Meanwhile, President of Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee (PHMMC) Krishan Sharma has welcomed the ETPB’S move, stressing that it was a goodwill gesture and also a step towards mainstreaming the community which should be applauded. Sharma told the press: “We are making efforts to promote religious tourism and rehabilitate many other temples and religious sites across the country. There are issues everywhere in the world, which are exploited by inimical forces in the region. So, such steps could silence them and counter their narrative.

Inside the Valmiki Temple

It may be noted that the Valmiki Temple is the only functional Hindu temple in Lahore, besides the Krishna Temple. Incidentally, angry mobs in Lahore had allegedly attacked the Valmiki Temple after the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India on December 6, 1992. They reportedly destroyed the idols of Lord Krishna and Valmiki, apart from looting gold items kept inside those temples. The mob demolished the Valmiki Temple to rubble and set the building on fire.

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