Updated: August 17, 2021 7:06:23 pm
Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday reacted sharply after a nine-foot tall statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was vandalised by a member of radical outfit Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at the Lahore Fort in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
“Vandalism in Lahore of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, the great unifier of India, has to be strongly condemned. This act which attempts to erase the shared history of the subcontinent shows how extremist ideologies feel emboldened in our volatile neighbourhood,” Puri tweeted.
Vandalism in Lahore of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, the great unifier of India, has to be strongly condemned. This act which attempts to erase the shared history of the subcontinent shows how extremist ideologies feel emboldened in our volatile neighbourhood. pic.twitter.com/aI2wN3QGbe
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 17, 2021
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the founder of the Sikh empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. Videos of the incident show the accused chanting slogans, breaking the arm of the statue and dismantling Singh’s bust from the horse, and throwing it on the ground before being pulled by another man.
Condemning the incident, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “It was only 12 days ago that a mob attacked a Hindu temple in Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan. The Pakistani state has completely failed in its duty to prevent such attacks. We call upon the Pakistan government to ensure the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities.”
According to local media reports, the activist has been arrested by the Punjab police and the Lahore Fort’s administration has assured that strict action would be taken against the accused.
The cold bronze statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was inaugurated in 2019 on the occasion of his 180th death anniversary.
— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) August 17, 2021
The statue, which depicts Singh mounted on a horse, was installed under the auspices of the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) — an autonomous body for the conservation of Lahore’s heritage — in collaboration with S K Foundation, a UK-based Sikh body.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Political Communication Dr. Shahbaz Gill also said that immediate action would be taken against the accused. Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary also reacted to the incident saying that such “illiterates are really dangerous” for Pakistan’s image internationally.
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.
The TLP shot to fame in 2017 when it held a massive protest for three weeks in the busy Faizabad interchange near Islamabad. The outfit was banned in April this year under the Terrorism Act after its supporters clashed with the law enforcement, leaving seven persons dead and over 300 policemen injured.
(Inputs from PTI)