Lahore, July 19: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with concern barring of Sikhs from a gurdwara in Lahore and called the restriction by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) scandalous and a violation of fundamental rights.
In a statement on Tuesday, HRCP said: “While extremist elements’ barring religious minorities from their worship places in Pakistan no longer surprises anyone, but the Evacuee Trust Property Board’s decision to deny Sikhs entry into Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh in Lahore on the eve of Shab-e-Barat(July 18) is scandalous.”
Around four years ago, a group of Muslim young men, had claimed that the gurdwara was built on the site of burial place of a Muslim saint. The ETPB had allowed both communities to observe their religious rituals according to their own beliefs at the gurdwara. Police deployed outside the gurdwara prevented the Sikhs from congregating to commemorate an eighteenth-century saint on July 16 because the Shab-e-Barat was to be observed two days later.
HRCP said: “Police deployment to prevent the congregation at the gurdwara was shocking, ill-advised and entirely uncalled for. The ETPB has no right to ask members of a religious faith to postpone rituals of their faith inside their places of worship, or to give precedence to religious rituals of one faith over another. After being turned away from the gurdwara, the Sikhs have reportedly stated that they were told by members of the extremist group that the gurdwara was now a mosque and that they would no longer be allowed to bring in their musical instruments any more to observe their religious ceremony.
HRCP calls upon the government to immediately take measures to ensure that the Sikh community’s right to observance of their faith is not interfered with by state or non-state actors. It is hoped that actions of state authorities would be aimed at enhancing inter-faith tolerance rather than picking favourites. It is also hoped that the ETPB would immediately issue a statement in this regard to clarify the situation and address the concerns of the Sikh community and all those who attach importance to notions such as human rights and fundamental freedoms.”