Karak Hindu shrine attack ‘rooted in past’

Karak Hindu shrine attack ‘rooted in past’


Umer Farooq January 13, 2021
Resentful local residents attacked a Hindu temple in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Karak district on December 30, 2020. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR:

As local police tightens its knot around those responsible for the vandalisation of Karak temple, new information suggests that the attack may have not been an act of solely religious terrorism but one rooted in an age-old property dispute.

The news of Hindu saint Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj’s Samadhi being set ablaze by a decadent mob, had left the country’s minorities struck with fear and horror, the night before New Year’s Eve. Per initial reports, a local cleric-led gang had charged into the religious site located some 140 kilometres from the provincial capital, wreaking havoc and demolishing several parts of the Hindu shrine.

Cause of dispute

As footages from the scene that went viral on social-media during the ensuing tumult, given the country’s radical history, the incident could easily be alluded to yet another act of religious fanaticism. According to emerging details however, the unfortunate event which took place on Wednesday 30 December 2020, has its bearings in a conflict dating back to some 24 years ago. The strife was first noted between Teri area locals and Hindu visitors, on the matter of Samadhi land in 1997. The Samadhi initially covered an area of 1,088 square feet, and it was agreed upon by both parties that there will be no further expansion efforts. Officials privy to the case say that an additional 1,904 square feet area was yet purchased sub rosa, for shrine expansion, by the Hindus from local Muslims.

At the time however, the resulting dispute was resolved without any major escalations, with the intervention of late Maulana Hassan Jan, a religious scholar. Per then resolution, it was decided that apart from the Samadhi itself, the land allegedly purchased sub rosa by the Hindus, could only be used for construction of a kitchen, a bathroom and a road for the shrine.

“Even then, there was no major contention between the two groups. The Hindu Committee and Teri Aman Committee (a council responsible for peacefully resolving local issues,) had mutually signed a deal agreeing that the additional land purchased from locals near the Samadhi, would only be used for residential and parking purposes. Expansion of the Samadhi was entirely out of the question,” a source associated with the development told The Express Tribune.

The incident

The latest incident of mob violence appeared to be in response to some construction work at the Samadhi, which the assailants were heard vowing to obstruct at all costs, in the various videos which emerged on the internet.

Although the local police department had prior information about a ‘meeting’ due to happen at the Teri Samadhi in the regard, what rather came as a surprise was the meeting’s nature. “The department was assured that all interactions will remain peaceful and there will be no issues at the shrine,” claimed a K-P police official on conditions of anonymity. Similar assertions were also made by most other officials of significance, who although remained reluctant to go on record with their details, but implied that the district administration, local police and the Teri Aman Committee, were all unaware of the mob’s ulterior motives.

Teri sentiments

It is imperative to mention that although not local to Teri, the Hindu community routinely gathers at the Samadhi on Wednesdays, to perform their religious duties. The mob responsible for attacking the Hindu Samadhi, was reportedly assembled at a town fair, frequented by people of all neighboring villages. “The meeting took place just a day prior to the attack. Before that, none of us had any idea. By the time the call went out at the fair, it was already too late for Teri villagers to stand in the way of the raucous mob,” said an influential local and supporter of Teri Aman Committee. “No one knows where the mob men came from but there has never been any such grievances in Teri. However, the issue is of Teri and it is the people of Teri and the Hindus who should discuss and come to a resolve,” he added.

Per a village elder, the December 31 incident has left Teri in a state of mass confusion and tumult. “Locals believe many who joined the mob came from neighbouring villages, which has endangered our peace. On the other hand, those who were allegedly involved in the attack our pointing fingers at us, as to why we left them alone and stood against violence instead. Arresting the mob men is not enough. I sense a greater clash between Teri residents and neighbouring villages is on the cusp,” the elder claimed.

Speaking in the regard, Teri Aman Committee Member Raees Badshah said that the incident, although regrettable, is novel to the people of Teri, who have been on peaceful terms with their Hindu guests. “We, the people of Teri, are educated and civilized and therefore will always choose peaceful dialogue over violence. We will not allow any outsiders to stigmatise us, and rather solve this issue without any foreign involvement. I urge the authorities to arrest everyone responsible for this tragedy and release anyone found innocent,” he told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2021.

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