Centuries-old Sikh heritage shrine vandalised in Pakistan

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: May 30, 2019

UPDATE: MPA from minority community Sardar Mohinder Pal Singh on Tuesday called the news fake saying it was actually Nanak palace named after its owner Nanak Singh who had migrated to India after partition.


 
The Multan-based PTI MPA shared a video on social media after noticing the fake news published in some newspapers and then carried by Indian newspapers and tv channels as part of their news feed.
 
Mohinder Pal Singh said the wrong story not only hurt the sentiments of the 120 million strong Sikh community but also hurt the credibility of newspapers and TV channels that carried it.
 
"It was not Gurdwara or Gurunanak Palace as was reported by media. It was actually Nanak palace owned by one Nanak Singh who had built this Haveli but later migrated to India after partition. It was then occupied by a Gujjar family who broke it for renovation,” he added in a video that surfaced online.
 
Sardar Mohindar Pal Singh is also the Punjab Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Human Rights and Minority Affairs and member of Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhag Committee, member Evacuee Trust Property board (ETPB) and member ETPB task force.
 
He told APP by phone that DC Narowal had sealed the said building and took it in possession and investigations into the matter were in progress.
 
“The news was totally wrong. All they did was adding a prefix 'Guru' to the word Nanak,” he said. He appealed media to thoroughly investigate to ascertain facts before publishing stories.
 
He said media should avoid publishing wrong stories, particularly those that can be misused by the hate-mongers to spread hatred and divide. Instead, he added, media should first ascertain facts.
 
He said people should live in harmony no matter which country they belonged to and should promote brotherhood, love and peace.
 




A portion of the historical monument in Pakistan's Punjab province was demolished by a group of vandals, who then went on to sell its priceless windows and doors. The four-storey Guru Nanak Palace, built over four centuries ago, also had pictures of the first Sikh guru and various Hindu rulers.


Gurunannak
 
Lahore: A four-centuries-old Sikh heritage shrine in Pakistan was partially destroyed by locals and civic authorities this week, Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Dawn reported. The Guru Nanak Palace, called Mahalan by the locals, stood near Bathanwala village in Pakistan’s Narowal city, only 100km from the Lahore.
 
The group of locals not only partially demolished the structure allegedly with the connivance of Auqaf Department officials but also sold its precious windows, doors and ventilators, the report said.
 
The walls of the four-storey building had pictures of Sikhism’s founder, and various Hindu rulers and princes.
 
There were 16 large rooms in the building, all of which had at least three beautiful doors and at least four ventilators. “This old building is called the Palace of Baba Guru Nanak and we have named it Mahalan,” a local resident identified as Muhammad Aslam told the newspaper. “A number of Sikhs from across the world, including India, used to visit this building.”
 
The Guru Nanak Palace is said to be four centuries old.
 
The history of this place isn’t clear, but it is considered holy by the Sikh community in the region. The Dawn reports that the group of people who pulled down the structure were supported by the local civic authorities. Even the department in charge of religious affairs was informed, but refused to act.
 
There are allegations that officials of the government’s auqaf and religious affairs department are involved too. “The auqaf department was informed about the demolition of the building by some influential persons, but no officer or official took any action or even reached here,” alleged Muhammad Ashraf, another local resident. “Three storeys of the building have already been demolished and new houses constructed. The influentials have demolished the building with the connivance of the auqaf department and sold its costly windows, doors, ventilators and wood.”
 
Pakistan has several shrines of importance to the Sikh community. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan also formally inaugurated work on the Kartarpur Corridor, which will give Indian devotees access to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara on the Pakistan side of the border. Khan has also proposed to open access to the ancient Sharda Peeth temple which stands in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
 
India and Pakistan are already in the process of jointly constructing a corridor linking the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, in Kartarpur across the Pakistan border. Officials from both sides held a meeting to discuss modalities of the project recently.
 
However, there is no clarity regarding legal status of the building, its owners or the government department that has its records. “There is no mention of this building in the revenue record,” said Narowal Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar, who is in charge of records of all properties in the region. “As it seemed to be historical, we are checking the municipal committee’s record.” He said he had stopped the demolition of the building.
 
Evacuee Trust Property Board Sialkot zone Rent Collector Rana Waheed said his team was investigating the matter. “If this palace was the property of Evacuee Trust Property Board, legal action will be taken against those responsible.”
 
Local residents asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to take immediate notice of the destruction of this “heritage site” and act against those who demolished it.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mount pressure on Pakistan government to launch a "thorough probe" into the destruction of the centuries-old Guru Nanak Palace in Pakistan's Narowal recently. He also offered his government's assistance in getting the monument rebuilt if the centre was able to get Islamabad's permission for the same.


 
The Chief Minister, in his letter to PM Modi, requested that he urge "the Pakistan government to probe the wanton destruction of the property in question and bring all the people associated with the unfortunate act" to justice. He also demanded that the centre impress upon Pakistan the need to preserve all Sikh heritage monuments in an "institutionalised manner" to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
 
In a separate press statement, Captain Amarinder Singh said the shocking incident had hurt the sentiments of Sikhs across the world at a time when they were preparing to celebrate Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary. He also offered the Punjab government's help to rebuild the property if Pakistan grants permission for the same.
 
India today's investigation into the claims revealed that the report by Dawn was false and incorrect.
 
“India Today investigation revealed that the place shown, as Guru Nanak Palace in the Dawn article is not called the Guru Nanak Palace. It was revealed that the building is an abandoned structure, standing in a small village called 'Bhaat', about 20 km from Narowal city in Pakistan's Punjab province,” a report in India Today said.
 
“The building has been there before the Indo-Pak partition and has been a living shelter to a poor family from the same village. The Dawn story claimed that the building was 'demolished' after a group of locals stole its precious doors, windows and ventilators. However, India Today has found out that the building was not demolished. The building fell down on its own after the locals took out its doors, windows and ventilators,” the report said.
 
"The building structure was so old that it could not stand on its own, especially after the doors and other stuff was taken out. No one demolished it", confirmed a local from the village in the report.
 
“Dawn's story also claimed that many Sikh minorities visited the building, being a historical site, during their religious visits. However, this claim also turned out to be false as local sources revealed that any Sikh community member never visited the building, not being the Guru Nanak Palace, in decades,” the report said.
 
“It has also been learnt that the minority leader of the Sikh community have taken notice of the falsified report from Dawn, and have called in a meeting with the provincial government to discuss the false claims of the report. "Baba Guru Nanak never used to live in palaces. He was a fakir and was never needed lavish palaces to reside in", said a leader of the Sikh community on the condition of anonymity. The Sikh community is seeing this as an attempt to malign or damage the Kartarpur Corridor initiative and the image of Baba Guru Nanak,” the report said.