* Hindu representatives say they plan to renovate temple with government’s help, don’t want any interference
* Christian group hopes meeting will finally resolve dispute
By Ali Usman (writing for The Daily Times)
LAHORE: Christians who have claimed possession of the Balmiki Temple on the basis of ancestral heritage and Hindus who want rights to it for worship have agreed to form a four-member committee to resolve the possession dispute.
Following a meeting with a Minorities section officer, who had taken notice of the situation on the directions of Minority Affairs Minister Kamran Michael, the two groups have also decided to submit written reports of their respective stances to the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs. Reportedly, the section officer, along with an Inter-Religious Peace Council representative, visited the temple to discover whether the Hindus were being disturbed while conducting their worship.
The temple is currently in possession of Christians who converted from the Balmikis. The Hindu group, meanwhile, is claiming possession of the temple, as they have alleged that the Christians are using the temple for activities that are disrespectful to the temple’s sanctity. However, the Christian group says that even though they have embraced Christianity, they still respect Guru Balmiki Swami and have the right to look after their ancestral place of worship.
Following the intervention of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs, both groups have named representatives that would jointly decide how to conduct the temple’s affairs. The Christians said that their representatives would be Baghat Lal and Baghat Sadiq Ram, while the Hindu Sudhar Sabha organisation of Hindus in Lahore have yet to name their representatives.
Renovation: Hindu Sudhar Sabha Programme Director Amar Nath Randhwa told Daily Times that the Hindus wanted control of the temple, as it was their place of worship. He said that the Christians could retain their affiliation with Guru Balmiki Swami, but they were not entitled to retain control of the religious affairs of the temple. He said that his organisation planned to renovate the temple with the help of the government and did not want any interference from the Christians in that matter.
Randhwa also said that actions that were disrespectful to the sanctity of the temple, like smoking, should not be conducted at the temple’s premises. He agreed that the best way to resolve the issue was through negotiation between the Hindu and Christian leaders under the aegis of the Minority Affairs Department.
Settle differences: Separately, Baghat Sadiq Ram, Samuel, Faryad Kokhar and other Christians said that they had the possession papers of the temple and would produce them in the meeting at the Minority Affairs Department on Tuesday (today). Baghat Ram said that he hoped that the two communities would be able to settle their differences during the meeting at the Minority Affairs Department.