India on Monday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan High Commission over attempts to convert the Gurdwara Shahidi Asthan in Lahore into a mosque.
The gurdwara at Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore is the site of martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh Ji but has been claimed as the place of Masjid Shahid Ganj, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
In response to a media query, Srivastava said, “A strong protest was lodged with the Pakistan High Commission today on the reported incident whereby Gurdwara ‘Shahidi Asthan’, site of martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh ji at Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore, Pakistan has been claimed as the place of Masjid Shahid Ganj and attempts are being made to convert it to a mosque.”
Gurdwara Shahidi Asthan Bhai Taru Ji is a historical gurdwara where Bhai Taru Ji made supreme sacrifice in 1745. The gurdwara is a place of reverence and considered sacred by the Sikh community. This incident has been viewed with grave concern in India.
There have been calls for justice for the minority Sikh community in Pakistan. India has expressed its concerns, in strongest terms on this incident and called upon Pakistan to investigate the matter and take immediate remedial measures.
Pakistan was also called upon to look after the safety, security, well-being of its minority communities including protection of their religious rights and cultural heritage.
There are several historical Sikh gurudwaras in Pakistan which are either in a dilapidated condition or they are occupied by the land mafia and locals. The Sikhs are facing persecution across Pakistan. There are many instances of Sikh girls being kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslims.
On July 26, news agency ANI reported that an activist of Dawat-e-Islami (Beraillwi), who is also a caretaker of Mazar of Muslim prophet Hazrat Shah Kaku Chesti in Lahore has threatened the minority Sikh community saying that Pakistan is an Islamic nation that belongs to Muslims.
In a video, Sohail Butt, who also runs a shop in Landa Bazar, along with some local activists have occupied the land of Gurudwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and has threatened Gopal Singh Chawla, the former chief of Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC) who hoisted Shri Nishan Sahib (a Sikh symbol) at the gurudwara 2019, ANI reported.
Sohail claims that the land on which Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and its adjoining 4-5 canals of Gurdwara land belong to Mazar of Muslim prophet Hazrat Shah Kaku Chesti and adjoining Masjid Shaheed Ganj, ANI reported.
ANI sources said that Sohail Butt did this on the direction of some land mafia and one ISI officer namely Zain Saab. He said in a video that Pakistan being an Islamic nation only belongs to Muslims. He said, “Duration the creation of Pakistan in 1947, some 20 lakh Muslims sacrificed their lives. And these Sikhs are showing hooliganism. This is an Islamic nation, how can they show hooliganism. Historical records show that this site belongs to us.”
In his video, he spoke against Sikh community leader Gopal Singh Chawla and one Fauja Singh, a former Sikh militant residing in this Gurdwara, ANI reported. Replying to a statement made by Gopal Chawla about the treatment of Sikhs in Pakistan, Sohail Butt said, “Gopal Singh Chawla had accused Pakistan while standing at the premises of this mazar last year. Why they (Sikhs) are turning out to be evil men? What is the reason behind the emergence of Sikh gurudwaras in the past 10-15 years? Pakistan was created on two-nation theory. This is intolerable as when Chawla threatens us that he will come with a group of Sikhs and occupy the land belonging to mazar”.
He added, “Pakistan is our country and we are faithful to this country, our religion and this holy site. Gopal Singh Chawla is a liar and he threatened us at our site. He was showing his hold on this land but he must show some proof that this site belongs to the Sikhs”.