Hindus have expressed outrage over the occupation by Muslims of a century-old temple in Sindh province following a years-long land dispute. A conference last week brought together several religious groups to address what they said was increasing marginalization of Hindus and the seizure of their religious properties by land grabbers and others. Tensions have increased since a confrontation on February 3 between Hindus and Muslims at the Akharo temple in Umerkot left two Hindu men injured from gunshots. The men were trying to evict local Muslims from the temple, which they have occupied following a land dispute between Hindu and Muslim businessmen dating back more than two years. “The sanctity of our temple as well as graves of maharajs [prayer leaders] in the compound is at stake,” said Meer Chand Sahejani, president of the All Pakistan Young Schedule Caste. “The matter is in court and we are awaiting the verdict from the revenue department.” Community leaders have also appealed to the government for the return of the property during a conference in Peshawar last week. “Many temples have been converted to shops, hotels, schools and animal stables. Most of the property is in the possession of land grabbers, the government or the Pakistan army. We want them back,” said Haroon Sarb Diyal, president of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Association (APHRA). The conference was organized by the Ministry of Religious and Minorities Affairs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and was attended by about 300 Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. “It is hard for us to celebrate our religious festivals when the police refuse to provide security,” said Haroon Sarb Diyal. APHRA claims there are presently 428 Hindu temples in the country but only 26 that are being used for worship. Twenty-three temples in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan are illegally occupied, the group said.
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