Amidst rising tensions between India and Pakistan over India’s changing the constitutional sttus of the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh under its admistration, the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled large parts of Punjab and Afghanistan, has been vandalized.
Two men allegedly vandalised a statue of Punjab’s ruler Raja Ranjit Singh placed near his grave in Shahi Qila, Lahore, Dawn newspaper reported.
Authorities said the two men claimed to be ‘reincarnations’ of Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, the Afghan ruler who had attacked India several times in the 12th century.
Federal and Punjab minjsters had attended the unveiling of the statue donated by a Britain-based Sikh body. It was seen as a tourist attraction and as a means of earning money.
However, it generated debate over wisdom to erect sttue in Muslim country, and of a non-Muslim who had “ill-treated” Muslims during his rule. It was also criticized as a way of expressing “Punjabi supremacy” in Pakistan.
The incident occurred on Saturday when the Qila had been routinely opened for visitors. The newspaper did not elaborate on the reason for reporting the development after two days.
It said “two men — one pretending to have a leg disability carrying a wooden rod and another “helping him to walk” — entered the Qila.
“Both men went straight to the statue and started hitting it with the wooden rods, resulting in the breakage of one of its arms 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 rule of the Punjab.
Later, the attackers were handed over to the police, who registered a case against them on the complaint of Walled City Authority.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Syed Ghazanfar Shah told Dawn that the attackers were motivated and vandalised the statue “on the basis of religious biases”.
He said the attackers were of the view that it is against their religion to erect a statue in a Muslim country and they would repeat the act if the authorities did not remove it.
The statue of Singh was unveiled at the Lahore Fort, at the Mai Jindan’s Haveli, on June 27 — the warrior’s 180th death anniversary.
The nine feet tall statue, made of cold bronze, showed the regal Sikh emperor sitting on a horse, sword in hand, complete in Sikh attire.