Karachi: As we entered Manghopir, it was clearly evident that neither the area was sufficiently developed nor were its inhabitant enjoying a high standard of living.
It is very interesting that the residents of Manghopir, despite following different creeds -Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, live together. So much so that even their churches, mosques, imam bargahs and temples are all located at one place, observed William Gal, city councillor, having been elected on the seat of the ruling party PPP.
Gal reported, “Our people, especially Christians and Hindus, have problems from the government side that is not helping them, nor giving them their actual right in Benazir Income Support Programme.” He went on to say, “I am surprised to see the damage of Hindu Temple, when mosque and other religious places are safe.”
We, then, crossed the local mosque, a very well developed structure, which was allocated an area larger than the neighbouring church and Shiv temple. Upon reaching the temple, however, we were shocked to see the property totally vandalised.
It is believed that Shiv Temple is one of the most ancient temples in the vicinity. While we were there, some people stepped forward and introduced themselves as Hindus to us. The group included Heera Lal, Sobho Lal and Babu Lal from the Hindu community of Hareejun; also known as Kathiawaris.
Babu Lal complained to us how they have been trying to approach everyone to save the Shiv Temple and have even contacted Mohan Lal, the former minister, but to no avail.
“Shiv Temple is the only temple for us where we can perform our religious activities, however, we last celebrated Ram Leela there, five years ago. Now, we are unable to perform one day pray,” exclaimed Heera Lal.
One is left to wonder who was involved in destruction of Temple? When asked, everyone grew silent, no one uttering a word. It was only later that one person shared, “You can look around the area and only Shiv Temple has been damaged – why and how did it? But we cannot name (anyone) as our jobs may be at risk.”
Sobho Lal reported how “we Hindus are a small community of labourers.” He pointed out the houses of Muslims that are “slowly coming towards on the land of the temple – to build their houses. We cannot say anything or fight them,” he cried.
Heera Lal described how they were being limited to perform or celebrate their religious events only at their houses. “If we go outside to celebrate our religious events, robbers and thugs give us trouble. I lost my brother because robbers shot him as we were coming back from religious event,” he added.
Shehzad Rind, a young man, contributed to the conversation that “as a Muslim, I feel myself pained that (when) everyone has a right to go to his/her religious place for performing worship, Hindus are the only one community in the area that do not have even a place to worship.” He angrily retorted, “We all know that who is involved in destruction of Temple? Shiv Temple is around the walls of KMC – how is it possible that without anyone’s permission, criminals easily came and destroyed Shiv Temple? Someone is backing them to vandalise Hindu Temple. The medical superintendent may have all information.”
When asked whether the Hindu organisations and government officials had approached the community, Babu Lal said, “We have a plan to contact Hindu ministers but we know they would not help us. Whenever, we have approached them – they always sidelined our request by saying that it is not a “Hindu” property, therefore, influential persons cannot help in the case.” He also showed us the official documents claiming that the property belonged to Hindus. He complained, “We have been requesting for a map of Shiv Temple area but the official persons did not allow us any access. When the government has allocated five percent for the temples, why do not they care about us.”
“We are not asking for everything, but we do want (our) right and have Shiv Temple built so that we can perform our religiousn events here, as others do,” said Heera Lal.
Because we had heard so much about Mohammad Ali Abbasi, the medical superintendent having great influence over the area, we did approach him for a quote. Abbasi first acted as though he had no knowledge of the problem of Shiv Temple and tried to exhibit his participation in the Hindu community. Later he stated, “Hindus were in a majority before, but now the community has a low (population) ratio in the area.
Does Abbasi really know who is behind this destruction of the Temple? He gave us an inchoate answer to the question by only saying that since the temple is in a corner of the area, people rare go there. Upon being asked about his own involvement in the scenario, he became furious, refusing to acknowledge any such connection.
When we asked him questions pertaining his response to the destruction of the temple, a part of his hospital property, he called for Babu Lal, a facility worker. Dubbing him as a “Badmash”, Abbasi angrily asked, “Tell us – what is problem of Temple?” Lal, who had first confided in us the aforementioned difficulties, shared that they wanted to rebuild the temple for praying.
Lal was then questioned about the killing of the temple guardian, to which he replied that it was also because of the guardian’s assassination that they wanted to protect the temple.
Abbasi, however, stated that he did not have any information about the killer. He, then, went on to accredit himself for the many services he had rendered for the Manghopir residents. However, the poor condition of hospital told us a completely different story.
An unnamed source also confided that Abbasi, himself, did not want to see the Hindus performing their religious activities at the Shiv Temple.
“Without the permission of Abbas, no one can come and touch the temple. You can come look at church – it is not in any good condition,” said William Gal.
Shiv Temple has been vandalised and the Cultural Department may not even be aware of the destruction. It is the responsibility of the department to protect the old places of the city, but they have shown clear neglect.
All in all, Manghopir gives you a distinct message that it is now a forgotten part of Karachi- one being ignored for several decades.
The author is a freelancer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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