The statue of 19th Century Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been vandalised for the second time since its unveiling in 2019 at the Lahore Fort here, officials said on Saturday. The statue was allegedly vandalised by a teenage religious zealot, they said. Following the incident, the authorities have closed the 'Mai Jinda' haveli at the fort in Punjab province where it was placed for public viewing.
An official of the Lahore Walled City Authority told PTI that a teenage visitor broke the arm of the Maharaja's statue on Friday. "The security guards deployed there arrested the boy and handed him over to the police. The suspect has been booked under (sections) 295, 295-A and 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code," he said, adding that the suspect told the police that his "religious sentiments" were hurt seeing the statue of a Sikh ruler at the fort.
The accused teenager has been identified as Zaheer, a resident of Harbanspura in the city, according to the Express Tribune newspaper.
In August 2019, two young men belonging to a religious party -- Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan of Maulana Khaim Rizvi -- had vandalised the statue.
They had used sticks to damage the figure. In June 2019, Maharaja Singh''s statue was unveiled in a colourful ceremony in which several Sikh delegates from India, Pakistan and other countries had participated.
The event was organised by Bobby Singh Bansal from the UK, in collaboration with the Walled City of Lahore Authority. The nine-feet statue is made of cold bronze. It shows the regal Sikh emperor sitting on a horse, sword in hand, complete in Sikh attire.
Sculpted by local artists, under the aegis of the Fakir Khana Museum, the statue is meant to invoke the feeling of the emperor being present, with its real life proportions, and was unveiled on his 180th death anniversary.
Maharaja Singh, popularly called Sher-e-Punjab, died in 1839. “The project was meant to commemorate the 180th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to forge a lasting friendship amongst the people of Punjab,” UK-based historian Bobby Singh Bansal had said. His organisation SK Foundation, UK, commissioned the statue in 2016.
“We donated it to the people of Pakistan to promote Sikh heritage and tourism here,” he had said. Maharaja Singh was the leader of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.