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Sikhs In Lahore Prevented From Celebrating Festival

Islamabad, Jul 17:  The Sikh community in the eastern city of Lahore has been barred from organising a religious celebration at a disputed gurdwara after a religious group persuaded authorities that celebrating the Muslim holy
sikhs in lahore prevented from celebrating...
PTI 17 Jul 2011, 16:26:13 PM IST

Islamabad, Jul 17:  The Sikh community in the eastern city of Lahore has been barred from organising a religious celebration at a disputed gurdwara after a religious group persuaded authorities that celebrating the Muslim holy day of ‘Shab-e-Barat' is more important than the Sikh festival.

The musical equipment of the Sikhs was thrown out and their entry to the gurdwara barred due to the efforts of the Dawat-e-Islami, a Barelvi proselytising group, The Express Tribune newspaper reported today.

Police were deployed outside the gurdwara to prevent Sikhs from conducting a religious ceremony until after the end of Shab-e-Barat, which falls tomorrow.  The Sikh community wanted to commemorate an eighteenth-century saint at the gurdwara on Friday.  Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh at Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore was built to honour the memory of a Sikh saint who was executed in 1745 on the orders of the Mughal governor of Punjab, Zakaria Khan.

Every July, Sikhs have held religious ceremonies to commemorate his sacrifice.

Though the gudwara was taken over by the Evacuee Trust Property Board after Partition, Sikhs were allowed to continue using it with relatively few restrictions.

Four years ago, the Dawat-e-Islami claimed the gurdwara was located on the site of the grave of a 15th century Muslim saint, Pir Shah Kaku.

The group claimed Kaku was the grandson of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, an “implausible claim” since Ganjshakar died in 1280 while it claims that Kaku died almost 200 years later, in 1477, the daily reported.

The Sikh community had approached ETPB, which allowed both communities to observe their religious rituals according to their own beliefs at the gurdwara.

The Dawat-e-Islami used it every Thursday for prayer services while Sikhs used it once a year for the anniversary of Taru Singh's martyrdom.

This year, when Sikh men went in to set up their musical instruments on July 13, they were thrown out by men from Dawat-e-Islami and prevented from re-entering the shrine.  Members of the Sikh community, many of whom fear to be identified, said the leader of the group of men, Sohail Butt, claimed that the gurdwara was now a mosque and Sikhs would not be allowed to bring in their musical instruments any longer.  Butt admitted he had prevented Sikhs from performing their ritual, claiming that the gurdwara was inside the courtyard of the mosque.

“Shab-e-Barat is more important than the Sikh ritual,” Butt said, adding the ETPB had accepted his group's stance.  Officials from ETPB admit that they have asked the Sikh community to postpone their celebrations until after Shab-e-Barat.

ETPB Deputy Administrator Faraz Abbas, who deals with Sikh affairs across Pakistan, admitted that Sikhs had been denied entry into the gurdwara.

Gurunanak Mission president Sardar Bishon Singh said the ETPB's decision to bar Sikhs from entering their shrine was against the constitution.

He said that he approached the ETPB but was told to wait until after Shab-e-Barat.

“How can we postpone the rituals of our faith,” he asked, adding that the government was not paying attention to their cause.

Singh appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to take suo moto action over the violation of rights of minorities in Pakistan. PTI

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