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Ranjit Singh’s statue vandalised at Lahore Fort; shows growing intolerance in Pak: MEA

Accused arrested, says Pak, was member of outfit that had earlier vandalised statue

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 18, 2021 10:03:07 am
Ranjit Singh’s statue vandalised at Lahore Fort; shows growing intolerance in Pak: MEAThe statue, unveiled in 2019 at the Lahore Fort, was allegedly vandalised by a member of the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. (Express photo)

The statue of Sikh empire founder Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore Fort was vandalised Tuesday, the third time since it was installed in 2019, inviting sharp reaction from India, which said the incident highlights the growing intolerance towards minorities in Pakistan added that the neighbouring country’s inability to prevent such attacks is creating a climate of fear among the minorities.

The statue, unveiled in 2019 at the Lahore Fort, was allegedly vandalised by a member of the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious religious organisation. A video of the act went viral in which the vandal can be heard sloganeering while smashing the statue.

Police have arrested the vandal. In the previous two attacks since unveiling of the statue, one of the miscreants belonged to TLP.

Reacting to the incident, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, in a statement, said: “We have seen disturbing reports in the media about the vandalization of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore today. This is the third such incident wherein the statue has been vandalised, since it was unveiled in 2019.”

“Such attacks on the cultural heritage of minority communities in Pakistan highlight the growing intolerance and lack of respect for minority communities in Pakistani society.” Bagchi further said that “incidents of violence against minority communities, including attacks on their places of worship, their cultural heritage, as well as their private property, are increasing at an alarming rate” and mentioned that “it was only 12 days ago that a mob attacked and desecrated a Hindu temple in Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan”.

“The Pakistani state has completely failed in its duty to prevent such attacks. This is creating a climate of fear for the minority communities to practice their faith. We call upon the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities,” Bagchi said.
Earlier, the Lahore Fort administration claimed that it had beefed up the security following two attacks.

“Shameful this bunch of illiterates are really dangerous for Pakistan image in the world,” Pakisatn Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a tweet.

Special Assistant to the prime minister Shahbaz Gill said in a tweet: “The attack on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s statue reflects sick mentality. This is damaging for Pakistan’s image. Police must take strict action against the culprit.”

Lahore police chief Ghulam Mahmood Dogar said in a statement that the ‘suspect used a hammer to inflict damage on the statue.’ “An FIR has been registered against the suspect and he belongs to TLP,” he said.
According to the FIR, Muhammad Rizwan, a resident of Mandi Bahauddin district of Punjab province, crossed over the iron fence arround the statue of Singh at 7.55am and vandalised it. He has been booked under sections 295 and 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

In June, 2019, Ranjit Singh’s statue was unveiled in a colourful ceremony in which several Sikh delegates from India, Pakistan and other countries also participated. The event was organised by Bobby Singh Bansal, from the UK, in collaboration with the Walled City of Lahore Authority.

This is not the first time that the statue has been targeted. The arm of the statue was broken in Lahore last year. It was also damaged in August 2019 by two young men, according to Geo News.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the founder of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.

The nine feet tall statue, made of cold bronze, shows the regal Sikh emperor sitting on a horse, sword in hand, complete in Sikh attire.

Sculpted by local artists, under the aegis of the Fakir Khana Museum, the statue is meant to invoke the feeling of the emperor being present, with its real-life proportions, and was unveiled on his 180th death anniversary. Ranjit Singh passed away in 1839.

“The project was meant to commemorate the 180th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to forge a lasting friendship amongst the people of Punjab,” Bobby Singh Bansal had said.
His organisation SK Foundation UK commissioned the statue in 2016. “We donated it to the people of Pakistan to promote Sikh heritage and tourism here.”

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