LAHORE: A delay in the release of funds for a Balmiki Hindu graveyard in the city has perturbed the community who gained their right to the land after a long legal battle.
Following a petition from Hindu representatives, the then Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered the Punjab government in August 2012 to vacate the illegal occupants and ordered the authorities to construct a graveyard on the 14,200 square feet of disputed land.
The provincial government completed the work in May 2014 but the graveyard has not been inaugurated as of yet, resulting in an irritation among the Hindu community. The cemetery had been lying unused for over five years after a crowd led by a local cleric, Qari Razaul Mustafa, prevented its inauguration on May 24, 2014.
Amar Nath Randhawa, the president of Hindu Sudhar Sabha, an NGO which works for the rights of the Hindus said the authorities handed over keys of the graveyard to them about two months ago but the funds had still not been released. He went on to say that the graveyard needed the funds for filling of land so that the community could bury their dead in a proper manner.
He said his community was overall very happy for getting the key and said, “We are thankful to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Shakil Alvin for lending us support in our long-awaited demand.”
“We got the cemetery after a 29-year long legal battle in different courts against land mafia and finally the Supreme Court gave the decision in our favour,” he said, adding, “We had completed arrangements for inauguration on May 24, 2014, but the land mafia brought goons and had forced us to stop the inauguration of graveyard.”
Revealing his struggle, Amar Nath added, “The mafia referred to a grave as the resting place of Muslim saint Baba Haveli Shah and instigated goons that Hindus had desecrated the shrine. We won this land after a long battle and even invoked the authority of the President of Pakistan”.
According to Pakistan Balmik Sabha, an NGO that works for Hindus’ rights, around 230,000 Hindus live in Pakistan while Hindu population in Lahore is about 400. The Balmiki Hindu community bury their dead women and children.
MPA Shakil Alvin said he made effort for the Hindus as he considers them his own community. “I consider Hidus a part of my community. I am making utmost efforts for release of funds for the filing of land at the graveyard. Hopefully, funds for the area will be released very soon, in a day or two at the latest,” he added.