In a brazen act of vandalism, unidentified men sneaked into a Hindu temple in the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday, smashed a holy figurine and burnt down scriptures and images of deities.
“We opened the temple around 6pm and found all holy scriptures and images burnt down. A statuette of Lord Shiva was also smashed to pieces,” Ramesh Lal, a priest at Guru Gorakhnath temple, told The Express Tribune.
The temple is situated in the Gorgathri neighbourhood inside the walled city.
Peshawar, which is believed to be one of the oldest living cities of South Asia, houses dozens of monuments and structures from the Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and British eras.
The priest said that the community had reported the incident to the local police who gave them the customary cold-shoulder.
“Vandals smashed a statuette of Lord Shiva to pieces and burnt down the holy Gita as well as several images of our deities,” Lal said. The temple, according to him, did not have armed guards because the government pays scant attention to the security needs of a Hindu place of worship.
According to Lal, the 160-year-old temple was named after a Hindu pontiff Guru Goraknath. The local Hindu community had abandoned the temple following the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. For decades no ritual was undertaken within the temple ground until the Peshawar High Court handed over its custody to the Hindu community a few months ago.
“This desecration and vandalism has hurt the religious sentiments of our community. Lack of cooperation from police and administration has added insult to the injury,” Lal said and added that the police were reluctant to concede that the temple had holy images and figurines.
“When the temple was reopened [after the PHC verdict] after almost six decades, we imported a figurine from India which cost us hundreds of thousands of rupees,” Lal claimed.
Haroon Sarblal, a representative of the Hindu community, condemned the incident as ‘unacceptable’. He called upon the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to arrest the vandals and provide security guards for the temple.
“If the government wants the Hindu community to remain calm, it should arrest the vandals and punish them accordingly,” Sarblal toldThe Express Tribune.
These acts of vandalism and desecration are a deliberate attempt to create communal tension in the city, he said. However, he vowed that the Hindu community would remain calm and record its protest peacefully.
No group has claimed responsibility for the vandalism – but past attacks on the shrines of Muslim Sufi saints and spiritual figures have been blamed on Taliban insurgents.