KARACHI: In 1992, when the Babri Mosque was demolished in the Indian city of Ayodhya, a Muslim woman saved a Hindu temple in Karachi from facing the same fate in reprisal attacks.
She had placed a ‘taaziya’ in the temple, which protected it from mobs during the anti-India protests and rallies.
Twenty-four years later, some members of the Hindu community believe that the same Muslim woman has encroached upon their place of worship and have approached the court to take back its custody.
Therefore, the Sindh High Court (SHC) issued notices to the federal and provincial law officers to explain the factual legal position about the custody of the temple, which was reportedly built in 1957.
Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who headed the two-judge bench, directed the deputy attorney-general, the provincial advocate-general, the minorities’ affairs secretary, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and others to file comments by September 29.
The petition was filed by Atam Parkash Chanani along with 11 other people, who named the ETPB chairperson, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s administrator, Karachi commissioner, Ali Khan (AK) Engineering and another individual as respondents.
The petitioners said the Mari Mata Temple – located at plot 303-B on Sister Sequeira Street in the Rattan Talao on Akbar Road – is a historic worship place of the Hindu community.
It was built by the former president of the Hindu Panchayat, T Motan Da, in 1957. The petitioner said during the month of Muharram, a ‘taaziya’ is taken out from the temple every year.
The story goes that after riots broke out in the city following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India, a woman had saved the Mari Mata Temple by placing a ‘taaziya’ there, they recalled. Her name was Lakshmi Bai.
The petitioner alleged that most of the property of the temple has been encroached now, adding that the relevant official as well as the political parties had failed to retrieve it and hand it over back to the Hindu community.
Bai, who had once saved the temple and converted to Islam after the 1992 riots, is now illegally occupying the property, the petitioners alleged. They added that Bai, whose name after conversion became Mai Jannat, was not allowing the community members to visit the temple and worship there.
Therefore, they pleaded that the court order the authorities to retrieve the temple from the private respondent and hand it back to the Hindu community to look after it and perform their religious duties there.