200-year-old Sikh temple in Pakistani city handed over to community after 73 years - GulfToday

200-year-old Sikh temple in Pakistani city handed over to community after 73 years


Members of the Sikh community arrive for worship at the Gurudawara Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple in Quetta, Pakistan, on Thursday. AP

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Associated Press

A 200-year-old Sikh temple (gurdwara) that served as a school for Muslim girls for seven decades was returned to the Sikh community in the Pakistani city of Quetta, enabling them to worship there for the first time in 73 years, officials said on Thursday.

The temple stood empty for a year or two when most Sikhs left Pakistan for neighbouring India after the British partitioned the subcontinent into separate nations in 1947, following two centuries of colonial rule.

SikhTemplePak3-750x450Sikhs take part in worship at the Gurudawara Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple. AP

The Siri Guru Singh Gurdwara located on Masjid Road in the centre of Quetta has been used as APWA Government High Girls School for 73 years since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

"Restoring gurdwara as a place of worship for the Sikh community is a historical decision of the Balochistan government,” said Denesh Kumar, Balochistan parliamentary secretary and Adviser to the Chief Minister on Minority Affairs.

He said the market value of the 14,000-square-foot gurdwara was billions of rupees because of its location, but the provincial government had restored its status as a place of worship on the appeal of the Sikh community.

Under the government's guardianship, a school was later set up in the temple building, which remained functional until recently, when Sikhs won a legal battle to have the property returned, temple custodian Govind Singh said.

He said Sikhs living in Quetta were delighted to get back to their temple.

Sardar Jasbeer Singh, chairman of the Sikh Community Committee in Balochistan, expressed pleasure over the restoration of the gurdwara.

"This is the best gift for us. We are grateful to Pakistan and the judiciary for giving it back to us," Jasbeer Singh said. "For us, it is like a dream come true."

SikhTemplePak2-750x450Sikhs take part in worship at the Gurudawara Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple. AP

Singh spoke as jubilant members of the Sikh community, adhering to social distancing rules to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, gathered at the temple to worship.

The temple could not be returned to the Sikhs earlier because of a lingering legal battle between local Sikhs and the provincial government, Singh said.

Abdullah Khilji, an official at the education department in Balochistan, said hundreds of schoolgirls who were studying at the temple building were relocated to a nearby school where they have since adjusted.

Around 2,000 Sikh families live in Balochistan. Earlier in February this year, the Balochistan government had handed over a 200-year-old temple in Zhob to the Hindu community. The temple had been converted into a government boys’ school, which has now been shifted to another building.

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