Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Crumbling Walls, Silenced Melodies: Pakistan’s Neglect of Gurdwara Dedicated to Baba Bulleh Shah

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

Amidst the arid plains of Pakistan, stands a poignant testament to neglect and forgotten promises. The Gurdwara Sahib in Daftu, once a vibrant sanctuary dedicated to the revered Sufi poet and social reformer Baba Bulleh Shah, lies in ruins, its walls crumbling silently under the harsh sun. This decay, however, echoes a far deeper neglect – the Pakistani state’s apathy towards its dwindling Sikh minority and its rich cultural heritage.

Baba Bulleh Shah, a 17th-century mystic who transcended religious boundaries with his soulful poetry and egalitarian message, holds immense significance for both Sikhs and Muslims in the region. His verses, infused with love, devotion, and social commentary, resonated across communities, earning him the title of “Shah Bulleh.” The Gurdwara in Daftu, believed to have been built in the 18th century, served as a pilgrimage site for devotees seeking spiritual solace and connection with the poet’s legacy.

But time, and the tides of political change, have not been kind to this sacred space. The Gurdwara, devoid of regular maintenance and official recognition, has succumbed to the ravages of neglect. Its once-grand structure, adorned with intricate details, now stands skeletal, its walls cracked and crumbling. The courtyard, once vibrant with the melody of hymns and the murmur of prayers, is overgrown with weeds, a stark symbol of the silencing of a community’s voice.

This state of affairs mirrors the plight of Pakistan’s Sikh minority. Estimated to number around 15000-20000, the community faces a multitude of challenges, including forced conversions, discrimination in job opportunities and education, and dwindling places of worship. The neglect of the Gurdwara in Daftu stands as a stark reminder of the Pakistani state’s failure to uphold its responsibility to protect and preserve the cultural and religious heritage of its non-Muslim citizens.

The story of the Gurdwara in Daftu is not just about crumbling bricks and mortar. It is a story of broken promises, of a community’s heritage fading into oblivion, and of a state shirking its responsibility to ensure inclusivity and respect for all its citizens. It is a stark reminder that true progress cannot be achieved by erasing the past or silencing diverse voices.

The restoration of the Gurdwara in Daftu is not merely a technical or financial undertaking. It is a symbolic act of acknowledging the contributions of the Sikh community to Pakistan’s rich heritage and a commitment to protecting its cultural fabric. It is a chance to mend bridges, foster understanding, and build a more inclusive future for all.

The choice lies with Pakistan, and the world watches with bated breath.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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