PESHAWAR: In a country fraught with incidents of discrimination against minorities, a 160-year-old Hindu temple in Peshawar is preparing to welcome worshippers after 60 years.
The Goraknath Temple, situated in the city’s archaeological complex Gor Kattri, will open for worship on the Hindu festival of Diwali, which falls on October 26 this year.
“In accordance with the September 15 verdict of the Peshawar High Court, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Department of Archaeology handed over the temple’s keys to Phoolvati and her son Kaka Ram last week,” their attorney Pervez Iqbal told The Express Tribune.
A provincial minister is expected to attend the reopening ceremony of the temple, said Iqbal who spent almost a decade pursuing protracted litigation to win custody of the temple on behalf of Phoolvati.
Although Phoolvati and her son are now custodians of the temple, authorities have barred them from renovating the building, saying it is ‘protected’ property and changes cannot be made to it.
“We will fully support them [the custodians] and they can use the temple for worship or other religious activities at any time but they must avoid alterations,” Dr Abdul Samad, a consultant for the archaeology department, said.
But Iqbal says the temple has suffered from six decades of neglect and is in dire need of basic renovation. “The temple’s holy well is clogged with garbage and needs to be cleaned. Some years ago, authorities encroached upon the temple’s property to construct a park,” Iqbal said.
Kaka Ram has met Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Sports Minister Aqeel Shah, who directed senior officials of the archaeology department to provide the requisite facilities to the Hindu community.
In the long battle for its custody, the temple has changed many hands. The complex where the temple is located was named the city police headquarters and thus used for storing explosives. Later, in 2000, the police vacated its offices to police lines and the Peshawar Development Authority took over the temple.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated Diwali's date as October 30. Correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2011.
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