Several places of worship of both Hindus and Sikhs left behind in Pakistan at the time of Partition are of great reverence to the Punjabi community. Many Sikh shrines in erstwhile united Punjab are among such places of worship, including like the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.
Another such place of worship is the shrine of the martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh Ji known as Shahidi Asthan Gurdwara Taru Singh at the busy Naulakha Bazar in Lahore.
Reacting to reports of alleged attempts to convert the land of the shrine into a mosque, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had earlier urged the Indian government to take up the matter with Pakistan and ensure such places are guarded against any such attempts. In a tweet, he had asked External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to intervene following which a strong protest was registered with the Pakistan High Commission.
“A strong protest was lodged with the Pakistan High Commission on the reported incident whereby Gurdwara ‘Shahidi Asthan’, the site of the martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh ji at Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore, has been claimed as the place of Masjid Shahid Ganj and attempts are being made to convert it into a mosque,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Monday.
However, the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has pinned its hopes on the Imran Khan government to take steps to resolve such attempts by a few individuals and not disturb the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood.
Satwant Singh, president of the Pakistan Gurdwara Committee, said the attempt to grab land behind the Gurdwara Shahidi Asthan of Bhai Taru Singh Ji was made by some miscreants.
In a video statement, he said, “A video is going viral on social media about the shrine which has hurt the feelings of Sikhs all over the world. The government of Pakistan and specially Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision is for peace and brotherhood. Imran Khan is favouring the Sikh community. He got the Kartarpur shrine reopened. The incident which has come to light that it is an individual act and there is a plot alongside the shrine which belongs to the Evacuee Trust Board and is of the Sikh community. They want to encroach upon the same. We cannot tolerate this. But, if we take any step on our won it can harm Sikh Muslim brotherhood.”
“I have personally talked to chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board and others concerned. We are trying to get the authorities to remove the person trying to encroach upon the land. We will stand up against it but we can’t act on our own against few persons so as not to disturb Sikh Muslim brotherhood. Pakistan establishment is with the Sikh community. Those in that main bazaar of Lahore administration should take steps,” he added.
Bhai Taru Singh was born in Amritsar in a Sandhu Jat family in 1720. He stood up against attempts for forced conversion by the then Mughal rulers and sacrificed his life for refusing to convert to Islam. His head was scalped instead of cutting his hair by Mughals at the place revered for his supreme sacrifice to protect the values of Sikhism.