Gurdwara Bhai Biba Singh opens its doors after 60 years

Milk Shaykh

Banned
Gurdwara Bhai Biba Singh opens its doors after 60 years

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PESHAWAR: Prayers and hymns echoed through Gurdwara Bhai Biba Singh in Jogiwara for the first time in over six decades after the place of worship was reopened on Wednesday.

During the inauguration ceremony, the ownership was officially handed over to the Sikhs by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). The decision put a smile on the faces of people who gathered on the occasion.

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“We are very happy [that the gurdwara has been reopened],” Poonam Singh, who attended the ceremony, told The Express Tribune. “We will now be able to come here regularly because it is close to our house. The other gurdwara is far away from our house.”

Walk down memory lane

Situated near Government Girls High School Jogiwara, the gurdwara was built by Sikh leader Maharaja Ranjeet Singh (circa 1780-1839).

However, according to some estimates, it is believed to have been established at the time of the 10th Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, who died in 1708, making this structure at least 300 years old.

The gurdwara was one of the most visited places of worship for Sikhs for centuries but has not been used since Partition. After 1947, many Sikh families migrated to Rawalpindi, Hasan Abdal, and Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies. During these years, the building remained under the Auqaf department.

Although the department managed to protect the structure from being encroached, it failed to renovate the structure.

In 2013, Rs7.5 million was spent on the renovation of this gurdwara and Rs1 million was spent on minor repairs after the decision to reopen the gurdwara was taken.

Plans to reopen the gurdwara had not been implemented in the past as people living in the area questioned its existence because Sikhs had abandoned the place.

However, in a meeting with Sikh representatives, Auqaf department officials and the deputy commissioner decided the gurdwara would be reopened after the completion of its restoration.


A matter of inconvenience

Pakistan Sikh Community (PSC) Chairperson Radesh Singh Tony told The Express Tribune, “The decision to reopen our place of worship has brought us great joy. Before this, we had only two gurdwaras in Peshawar – [Gurdwara Johgan Shah] in Saddar and another in RA Bazaar. The gurdwara in RA Bazaar mostly remain closed as security forces are deployed there.”

He added, “There are more than 1,200 Sikhs in Peshawar and it was difficult to accommodate them in one gurdwara simultaneously.”

All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal was also present on the occasion. Special Adviser to the Chief Minister on Minority Affairs Sardar Soran Singh donated Rs3 million on behalf of the provincial government for the upkeep of the gurdwara. “

Now, the visions of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah have been realised [after the gurdwara was reopened],” he told participants.


ETPB Chairperson Siddiqul Farooq said, “Today is a day of pleasure – not only for Sikhs but for other non-Muslims as well. The decision to hand over ownership of the gurdwara has given a
sense of freedom to other minorities as well.”

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