LAHORE: Even after orders from the Supreme Court four years ago and a recent decision by a civil court in their favour, the Hindu community is running from pillar to post to take possession of their graveyard.
An SC bench, comprising Justice (Retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on August 13, 2012, ruled, “Prima facie the encroachments made on the land of Balmiki community is violating the Constitution. We were therefore persuaded to direct the chief secretary Punjab, DCO Lahore and DG LDA to ensure that all encroachments are removed within 30 days, strictly after observing due process.”
After removing encroachments from the graveyard on land measuring three kanals, four marla and 20 square feet, the city district government built a boundary wall around the graveyard and a gate was installed.
Its inaugural ceremony was scheduled for May 24, 2014, but it was disrupted by locals on the instigation of an influential from the area named Islamuddin. He was allegedly one of the encroachers who was dispossessed by the government, said Hindu Sudhar Sabha President Amarnath Randhawa.
He said in 2016, the entrance gate was demolished after work resumed on the Orange Line Metro Train Project. Jumping on the opportunity, some people took possession of the graveyard once again, he said.
On January 27, 2016, Rafiq Masih filed a suit before a civil court against the Hindus, claiming ownership of the graveyard. Civil Judge Asif Riaz dismissed this suit last week.
“Plaintiffs are directed to adduce the evidence to prove their ownership. Despite ample opportunities, the plaintiffs have miserably failed to produce the evidence,” the order read. “Consequently, the court is left with no other option but to dismiss this suit.”
Randhawa told The Express Tribune that the community filed an application with the Civil Lines Division superintendent of police, saying he was proceeding in the case by summoning both parties.
He said around five months ago, a community member had passed away and they had to take the body to Quetta for burial due to the fear of unrest. He said they also filed an application before the Punjab chief minister for proper security and possession of the graveyard. However, authorities have yet to respond.
Hindu Sudhar Sabha Secretary General Aroon Kumar Kundnani said that despite clear directions from the apex and civil courts, they were unable to take possession of their burial place. He alleged a handful of people, provoked by anti-Hindu elements, were trying to create unrest against his community.
Islamudin told The Express Tribune that he had nothing to do with the possession of the graveyard. He added he was never in possession of the land and rejected the notion that he was helping certain elements dispossess the Hindus.
Siddique Masih, the brother of the plaintiff in the case before civil court, told The Express Tribune that the graveyard belonged only to Christians. He said despite the court’s decision, they would look to other forums.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2017.