Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh
Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh (Punjabi and Urdu: گوردوارہ شہید بھائی تارو سنگھ) or Gurdwara Shahidi Asthan Bhai Taru Singh ji is a Sikh Gurdwara at Naulakha Bazaar in Lahore, Pakistan, which commemorates the spot where Bhai Taru Singh was executed. The shrine was built on the grounds of the Shaheed Ganj Mosque, leading to a legal dispute over ownership that began in 1850. British, and later Pakistani, courts upheld the right of Sikhs to maintain a place of worship at the site. While a settlement was being negotiated by British authorities, a group of Sikhs demolished the mosque on 7–8 July 1935, triggering communal riots.
|Gurudwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh|
|Architectural style||Sikh architecture|
|Town or city||Naulakha Bazaar, Lahore|
The gurdwara was built on the grounds of the Shaheed Ganj Mosque, which was dedicated in 1722 by Falak Beg Khan. The mosque was built on the premises of the shrine to the Sufi saint Pir Shah Kaku. After Sikh rule began in Lahore in 1762 under the Bhangi Misl, Muslims were forbidden from entering the site, and a small new gurdwara to commemorate the execution site of Bhai Taru Singh was built next to the mosque building and shrine of Pir Shah Kaku. Sikhs did not demolish the mosque immediately, but instead used it as the residence of the granthi priest of the gurdwara. Muslims began to petition British courts for ownership of the site, after the Sikh Empire was defeated in 1849.
The shrine ("shaheedi asthan") is believed to be situated at the place where Bhai Taru Singh was executed in 1745 by Zakariya Khan when he had his head scalped rather than cutting his hair or converting to Islam. According to Sikh sources, after cutting Bhai Taru Singh's scalp Zakaria Khan was stricken with unbearable pain and the inability to urinate. As a last resort, Khan sent an apology to the Khalsa Panth for his persecution of Sikhs and begged for forgiveness. It was suggested that if Khan hit himself with Bhai Taru Singh's shoes his condition might be lifted. Although hitting himself with Bhai Taru Singh's shoe did cure the Khan's condition, he died 22 days later from having hit himself with the shoes, which is what Bhai Taru Singh had predicted. Upon hearing the death of Khan and that he had outlived the Khan, Taru Singh also died on 1 July 1745.
Shortly after the commencement of British rule in 1849, the first petitions for retrieval of the mosque were made by Nur Ahmad in 1849. British authorities cited the existence of the Bhai Taru Singh shrine as reason for maintaining the status quo, and Sikhs were allowed to continue worshipping at the site. The entire site was handed to the Sikh community on 22 December 1927 by British authorities. Another appeal against Sikh ownership by the secretary of Anjuman-e-Islam, Syed Mohsin Shah, was rejected in 1934, and the mosque demolished on 8 July 1935, while negotiations with Muslims were ongoing. The act triggered communal riots in Lahore. In 1938, another appeal against Sikh occupation of the site was rejected. Fazl-i-Hussain, Prime Minister of Punjab under British rule, advised Muslims to give up claims to the site, and believed communal agitation would harm the cause of the pro-British Unionists.
After independence, the Sikh temple was abandoned and came under the control of the Pakistani government. Another appeal in 1950 to reclaim the land for Muslims was rejected, and Muslims were barred from converting the site into a mosque. Another appeal in the 1980s was also rejected. The site was handed back to the Sikh community by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. A new and larger gurdwara building was built on the grounds of Gurdwara Bhai Taru Singh in 2004.
Since 2012, the Market committee of Naulakha Bazaar led by Sohail Butt group has allegedly encroached upon more than 90% land of Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh by constructing a Mazar shrine inside the Gurdwara complex, and separated the Gurdwara by cloth partition leaving 18 to 20 square yard of land out of original 600 square yard land. On 16 July 2011, Sikhs were not allowed to pray at Gurdwara by Muslims because to holy day Shab e-Barat and the martyrdom anniversary of Bhai Taru Singh fell on the same day.
In July 2020, a cleric and shopkeep named Sohail Butt claimed in a video the land belonged to the shrine of the Shah Kaku and to the previous mosque. He also alleged that Gopal Chawla, the former chief of Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, had threatened to occupy the shrine of Pir Shah Kaku without proof of ownership of the site. Butt in 2012 had been accused of leading efforts to encroach upon land allocated to the gurdwara.
After Butt's threats, some Indian newspapers reported that Pakistan planned to convert the gurdwara into a mosque. The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Punjab, Amarinder Singh, condemned what he called an "attempt" to convert the shrine into a mosque. The Government of India's Ministry of External Affairs on 27 July 2020 lodged a protest with the Pakistani High Commission "over reports of attempts being made to convert" the shrine into a mosque. Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee demanded strict action against Suhail Butt.
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Sohail claims that the land on which Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and its adjoining 4-5 kanals of Gurdwara land belong to Mazar of Muslim prophet Hazrat Shah Kaku Chesti and adjoining Masjid Shaheed Ganj.
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Sohail Butt stated, “Gopal Singh Chawla had accused Pakistan while confronting at the premises of this Mazar last year. Why are Sikhs turning out to be evil men? What is the reason behind the evolution of Sikh gurudwaras in the past 10-15 years? Pakistan was created on a two-nation theory and is intolerable as when Chawla warns us that he will come with a group of Sikhs and obtain the land belonging to Mazar”. He added, “Pakistan is a Muslim country and we are faithful to this country and Islam and this holy site. Gopal Singh Chawla is a liar who is threatening us for this site. He was showing his authority on this land, but he must show some proof that this place belongs to the Sikhs”. Share this:
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Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday condemned attempts to convert a historic gurdwara into a mosque in Pakistan’s Lahore and called upon the Centre to communicate the state’s concerns to the neighbouring country.
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India on Monday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan High Commission over reports of attempts being made to convert Gurdwara 'Shahidi Asthan' in Lahore into a mosque, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
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