LAHORE: On Friday, a man was arrested for vandalising the statue of Sikh leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh, located at Lahore Fort, and a few came forward to condemn the crime.
The king of the Sikh empire stretched through many areas of Pakistan, with Punjab being the major territory, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even southern parts of the country, was Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
His statue was unveiled by the Sikh historian, writer and filmmaker Bobby Singh Bansal at the Lahore Fort at Mai Jindan Haveli, on the 180th anniversary of the emperor’s death. The London-based Bansal association, S.K. The statue was funded by the Foundation. It was sculpted, under the aegis of the Fakir Khana Museum, by local artists.
Bansal himself had previously claimed that the statue was a project intended to forge a lifelong friendship among the people of Punjab and that his foundation had donated the statue to the people of Pakistan to encourage Sikh heritage and tourism here.
However the first attack of vandalism happened not long after the monument was inaugurated, when two men attacked it with wooden poles, resulting in the breakage of one of its arms and damage to other pieces. The attackers were shouting slogans against the former Punjab governor and were demonstrating against the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The young man who was later arrested in the latest assault fractured the arm of a monument made of cold bronze. The witness, Zeeshan, like others before him, even told the police that the statue of Ranjit Singh could not have been installed because during his reign he had committed crimes against Muslims.
Speaking to Dharti News , Bansal said there would still be individuals who would remain ignorant of the rich Sikh past of Punjab, which had been the case since 1947. There was so much apathy and mistrust about the Partition that he said, it caused misinformation and misunderstanding between Muslims and Sikhs and other faiths.
Bansal said that, sadly, Sikh history was never taught at schools in Pakistan.
Most of the students know about Mughal and British law, but almost little about how Sikhs ruled in a secular way for so long, he said. The Sikh chapter is a cultural as well as political connection to Punjab’s culture.
Bansal proceeded to explain how the law had been and said that the most peaceful era had been the Sikh period. “In his court, Ranjit Singh had employed more Muslims and Hindus than individuals of any other religion; there were hardly any noble Sikhs in the darbar; Sikhs were usually sent to guard the borders,” he said. Ranjit Singh had renovated and rebuilt several mosques, and after evicting invading troops from there the Sunehri Masjid was given gold and a facelift. He never physically converted anyone to either religion and even married Gul Begum, a Muslim woman.
Those on Twitter also denounced the act of vandalism. “A user wrote: “So the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was vandalised again at Lahore Fort for the second time. What is the difference between the Pakistanis endorsing this act and the #Modibhakts naming terrorists Aurangzeb Alamgir and Tipu Sultan? ”
Although the deceased Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who had preached hatred towards the Sikh king, had inspired the teenager who was now imprisoned, the hue of bigotry against personalities of other faiths has been tainting society for a long time, and many scholars and civil society activists have been uneasy about it.
Peter Jacob, activist for minority rights and chairman of the People’s Commission for Minority Rights (PCMR), said it was time to hold in check the kind of bigotry that has invaded society and that has also acquired impunity in popular discourse. “It is worth exploring the sociology of this.