The Gurudwara Sri Singh Saba on Archer Road in Quetta closed just after partition when most Sikhs migrated to India. The building was handed over to the Education Department which established the APWA Government Girls High School on the campus.
“We could not go anywhere for our prayers,” said Sona Kaur of Quetta. “The opening of this temple has given us a new life.”
Sikhs either had to pray at home or had to ‘borrow’ the mandir from the Hindu community to perform their religious rites and ceremonies. “We’ve seen hard times,” said Sardar Jasbeer Singh, the chairman of the Sikh community in Quetta. “That’s why we prayed at home.”
The possibility to reclaim their religious space came when the Supreme Court set up a task force for minorities in 2014 and issued a detailed judgment authored by then Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani. Sardar Jasbeer Singh told SAMAA Digital that they filed a petition in Balochistan in 2016 and after three years of hearings the Government of Balochistan handed the site of the temple back even before the final verdict.
There are about 2,000 Sikh families living across Balochistan. About 550 people now visit this gurdwara each day to pray and engage with the community.
Although a school was set up inside, not many changes were made to the building itself. According to Sardar Jasbeer Singh, about Rs 2 million had to only be spent on restoration.
Encouraged by this success Hindus and Christians in Balochistan are filing similar petitions to reclaim and restore their holy or revered historic spaces. A Hindu temple in Zhob, Balochistan, for example, was handed back to the Hindu community earlier this year. The Survey of Pakistan is currently preparing a map of all the Hindu temples in Pakistan, which should help the government and community alike.