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August 17, 2019

Statue vandalism


August 17, 2019

In a bizarre incident, two men who allegedly claimed to be reincarnations of Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, the warrior who conducted periodic raids into the Indian subcontinent since 1,000 AD, vandalised a nine-foot tall statue of Punjab’s former ruler Raja Ranjit Singh which had been placed near his grave at the Lahore Fort earlier this year. The statue shows the man who reigned over much of northwest India sitting astride a horse. The statue is made of bronze and depicts the Sikh emperor with a sword in his hand, dressed in complete Sikh attire.

The incident, which took place on Saturday when the fort had been recently opened for visitors, occurred when two men, one pretending to have a disabled leg and carrying a wooden rod to support himself, while the other helped him walk, entered the building. The men headed straight for the statue and started hitting it with wooden rods, resulting in one of its arms breaking off and damage to other parts of the statue. Security guards rushed to the spot and captured the attackers, who were chanting slogans against the former ruler and famous warrior against the British. The two men were handed over to the police and a case registered against them. Police say the attackers hold that putting up a statue in a Muslim country was against their religion and they would repeat their act if the authorities did not remove it.

This is the kind of bigotry and narrow-mindedness which has turned our society into an almost farcical place. Previously, statues of Queen Victoria and other historical figures which stood on Lahore’s squares had to be removed and taken into indoor places such as the Lahore Museum to prevent possible vandalism. There are fears that the incident could damage relations between Pakistan and Sikhs at a time when work continues to open the Kartarpur in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Singh. Perhaps the vicious attack on the statue is an outcome of the anti India feelings currently being experienced. But protecting history is also important and all of us need to know more about the rulers of our part of the world and their contributions to it.

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