LAHORE: Two applications to restore the names of a school and a road that had been renamed in the wake of the partition to their original form have been languishing since March, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Bahadur Bhagat Singh Khalsa High School, which was constructed in 1917 near Mohini Road, and the Guru Nanak Bazaar were rechristened as Islamia High School and Pir Makki Road following partition. An unsuccessful attempt had also been made to rename Mohini Road after Riaz Shahid, a councillor in the Musharraf era. Scores of other places in the area named after prominent Sikhs including Kucha Beant Singh and Mohalla Gurdit Singh have managed to withstand the test of time and retain their original names.
Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation Pakistan chairman Imtiaz Rasheed Qureshi filed the applications to the DCO and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman on this account. He said the school had been named after Bhagat Singh to acknowledge his meritorious contribution in the struggle for independence. Qureshi said Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had eulogised Singh in a speech at the Central Assembly in New Delhi on September 4, 1929. He said Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Nishan-i-Haider had also eulogised Singh in an essay.
Qureshi said Pir Makki Road had been originally named after Baba Guru Nanak, the first of the Sikh Gurus. He said signs bearing the name of Nanak still existed and could be seen on the road. Qureshi said renaming the school and the road amounted to distorting history and obscuring facts. He exhorted the authorities to restore the original names of the school to give credit where it was due and enable Sikhs to see themselves as equal citizens in the nation.
The DCO had sent an urgent circular to the Education EDO on March 5 “to take action as per law/rules, under intimation of this office,” following the submission of the application. The EDO had forwarded the instructions to the Secondary Education DEO as most urgent on March 21 directing him to personally look into the matter and take necessary action. The official sent a direction to Muhammad Nawaz Anwar, the school’s principal.
Anwar informed the official on June 9 in his reply that the school had been known as the Islamia High School Mohini Road since partition. He said this name was also inscribed in an inauguration slab installed in the wall of the veranda.
Advocate Shabnam Nagi told The Express Tribune that scores of schools across the nation had been established by the community and named after distinguished Sikhs. She said the names of most of these schools had been Islamised. Nagi said the nation’s history was being purged of Sikh references. She said the community was not in a position to remedy this due to a myriad of reasons. “A Muslim can strive for their rights but we cannot,” Nagi observed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2015.