KARACHI - Tensions have been escalating between Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs over sacrilege of the copies of latter's holy book in various parts of Southern Sindh province, an act denounced by Pakistani Muslim religious leaders as contradicting with all faiths.
Five incidents of sacrilege (of holy book) have occurred in different parts of the province during last five months, Sardar Ramesh Singh, Chairman Pakistan Sikh Council OnIslam.net.
Tensions have flared after copies of Gru Garanth Saheb, which comprises the sayings of Baba Gru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, were found burnt and torn off in different districts of Upper Sindh.
Blaming the incidents on Hindus, the Pakistan Sikh Council said that the copies have been burnt, and torn off in Hindu temples in Mehhar, Pano Aqil, Sukkur, Mirpur Mathelo and Shikarpur cities.
A large number of Hindus are followers of Baba Gru Nanak, and they keep (copies of) our holy book in their temples. I am not blaming the entire Hindu community, but there are some elements within them who want to spoil the good relations between the two communities, Sardar Ramesh observed.
This is highly condemnable act. It has created unrest among the Sikh community, which may take an alarming turn.
We have informed the elders of Hindu community- not only on national and provincial level, but at the local level as well where the incidents have occurred, he added in an angry tone.
And, they have admitted that their own people are involved in this abhorrent act, he added.
Raja Asar Manglani, a Hindu elder and former chairman of Pakistan Hindu Council, shared Sikh community's anger.
This is true that some Hindus are involved in this heinous act, Manglani, a famous trader, told OnIslam.net.
The Hindu community vehemently condemns this act and disassociates itself from those elements who want to sow the seeds of hatred between Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistan.
Despite a clear-cut condemnation from Hindu elders, Sardar Ramesh still appears to be unsatisfied with the magnitude of reaction.
Verbal condemnation does not matter here. It can be done by anyone, Ramesh opined.
When, they (Hindus) admit that their own people are involved in the sacrilege, then what action has been taken against them.
In fact, they (perpetrators) are being saved, he alleged.
Angry Ramesh added if Hindus could not protect the Sikhs' holy book then they should refrain from keeping them in their temples.
They are Hindus temples. Muslims or Sikhs cannot enter there. They (Hindu elders) know very well who and when enters the temples, he said.
We do not want to prevent them (Hindus) from keeping and reading from Gru Garanth Saheb, but for that, they have to protect its honor, he warned.
Manglani, the Hindu elder, rejects the allegations of saving the culprits.
We are not at all downplaying these incidents. This is a very serious matter because it has happened in our temples, Manglani said.
He said the Pakistan Hindu Council has called an urgent meeting of the heads of local Hindu councils in Karachi to discuss this matter, and unearth the culprits behind these incidents.
A recently held general body meeting of the council has not only discussed the matter but also condemned it in terse words, he noted.
He appealed to both communities to maintain unity among them as some miscreants want to trigger communal violence in the country through these heinous acts.
For God sake, do not let these miscreants, who are in minority, overpower us. Both Hindus and Sikhs are the two arms of Pakistan, and they must stay together, he said.
Hindus are Pakistan's second largest minority in Pakistan after Christian, whereas they are the largest minority in Sindh province. They constitute 2 per cent of total 180 million population of this South Asian nuclear Muslim state.
Out of total Hindu population, 92 per cent belong to schedule cast or lower cast, while 8 per cent belong to upper cast of Hindus. Upper caste Hindus are by and large rich, and educated-mostly involved in business, trade, and medical professions.
Sikhs are the third largest minority in Pakistan, mostly settled in northeastern Punjab province. Their total population is around 40,000.
Witnessing traded Sikh-Hindu accusations, Muslim religious scholars have condemned the sacrilege of holy Books belonging to all religions, dubbing it as contradictory to the teachings of all faiths.
This is very unfortunate that followers of one religion are practically opposing the teachings of their own religion by disrespecting the holy books of other religions, Asadullah Bhutto, the deputy chief of Jamat-e-Islami, one of the country's two mainstream religious parties, told OnIslam.net.
Citing the sacrilege of noble Qur'an at the hands of Indian security forces in Kashmir a few weeks ago that parked instant protest across the valley, and Sikhs' holy book in parts of Pakistan, Bhutto said that this could not be an act of a true Hindu or Muslim or Sikh.
"Islam and all other religions teach their followers to respect others' religious sentiments and beliefs. You have the right to disagree with their beliefs, but you do not have the right to humiliate and persecute them, he maintained.
Those who have committed this heinous act, have actually earned a bad name to their own religion, he opined.
Bhutto said that although the Indian security forces have desecrated the noble Qur'an in occupied Kashmir, but no Muslim is allowed to do the same with Hindus' holy books.
Two wrongs cannot make one right, Bhutto, a lawyer by profession, remarked.
We (Muslims) are not permitted to desecrate the beliefs or holy books of any religion in any case, he concluded.
Hafiz Akif Ahmed, a Karachi-based religious scholar, agreed with Bhutto.
Sacrilege of noble Qur'an (in Kashmir) and the Holy Book of Sikh community (in Pakistan) is highly condemnable, Akif told OnIslam.
He terms the sacrilege of Holy Qur'an at the hands of Indian forces more abhorrent.
Sacrilege of Sikh's holy book could be an act of some misguided (Hindu) elements, but the discretion of Holy Quran at the hands of an institution is a great matter of concern because the act of a state institution represents the state's policy, he observed.
Akif thinks that equal respect to the beliefs and holy books of all religions can resolve many religious and communal issues.
If you do not respect others' religion and beliefs, they will not respect yours, he remarked.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net