KARACHI, PAKISTAN, December 2, 2012 (Tribune): In a hurried operation on Saturday, a builder demolished a century-old temple in Soldier Bazaar while the Sindh High Court was hearing a petition seeking a stay order.
Apart from razing down the pre-partition Shri Rama Pir Mandir, the private builder also demolished three or four houses located next to it. Nearly 40 people became homeless as a result. "They destroyed our mandir and humiliated our Gods," said an angry Prakash, pointing towards the huge debris of concrete, stones and walls of the temple. The demolishing team did place the statues of four Hindu deities on the side but the residents accused them of taking away their gold jewelry and crowns.
There are around 150 Hindus in the neighborhood and nearly four families live in each of the houses that were destroyed, according to an elderly resident, Kaali Das. "People were living in cramped houses, separated only by curtains. Over here, we live like animals," he said, adding that some of these houses were as high as three stories.
For their part, the police denied the existence of the temple completely. The police maintained that they had orders to remove the encroachments. DSP Pervaiz Iqbal of Nabi Buksh police station said, "There was no temple there. There were just Hindu gods present inside the houses and we made sure that they were safe."
The residents managed, however, to fish out a plaque of the temple from under the debris. Maharaj Badri, who lived inside the temple, also denied that the land was encroached upon. "Our ancestors have been living here way since independence. We are not encroachers," he said.
Military Lands and Cantonment director Zeenat Ahmed insisted that the temple was "untouched" and denied that it was demolished. The operation was against illegal occupants, she said, adding that temples are old grant property (evacuee property). "The builder had possession of the place since years and these people were encroachers, and encroachers have no religion," she added.