Fact-check: Was An Old Temple Destroyed In Karachi?

Fact-check: Was An Old Temple Destroyed In Karachi?
Concerns have been raised when a news report appeared in a local paper over the weekend claiming that a 150-year-old temple located in the heart of Karachi had been demolished. Things became complicated after the city's newly elected mayor came on social media to refute the story and state that the 'temple' is intact.

Investigations into this fact by The Friday Times have disclosed a story that is more complicated than what initially appears.

What happened?

A story appeared in the national English language daily Dawn on Sunday, July 16, which stated that a 150-year-old Mari Mata temple in the city's once Hindu-dominated neighbourhood, Soldier Bazaar, had been demolished.

The story, however, stated that all the demolition work took place within the compound of the temple and that its facade had been left intact, complete with a sign to the temple. The article also carried a picture of the temple's door.

The story quoted the Sri Ram Nath Mishra Mahraj, the priest of a nearby temple, Sri Punch Mukhi Hanuman Mandir. He told the paper that landgrabbers had been eyeing the property for a while, given its prime location.

The Maharaj added that the building of the temple was quite old and dilapidated, and they feared it may fall. He added that the temple was being managed by the Madrasi Hindu Community and that it had a Hindu caretaker as well who lived there.

The story stated that a member of the Madrasi Hindu community living in the area had accused two people, Imran Hashmi and Rekha, of conniving to sell the property using forged documents to construct a commercial building there. h

There were some videos circulating on social media that showed that mechanized diggers, shovels and other heavy machinery were at work at what was claimed to be the site of the temple in Soldier Bazaar at around half past midnight when the power of the area had been cut.


Further, in the video, it was alleged that those carrying out the construction work were being provided with security by the local police, apart from having private armed guards at the site to keep away anyone who intended to stop them.

The day the story was published, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui took notice of the incident. However, in a message he posted on his Twitter account, he stated that the news was false and that the temple was intact.

"No such demolition of the Mandir has taken place, and the Mandir is still intact," he stated, adding that the district administration has intervened while the leaders of the local Hindu community (Panchayat) have been asked to assist police in ascertaining the facts.

"PPP stands with people of all communities," he stated.


Subsequently, the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) also launched a probe into the matter.

What are the facts?

The facts are as follows:

  • Some construction work has taken place in the compound around the temple.
    Sri Mari Mata, Hindu, Temple ConstructionSri Mari Mata, Hindu, Temple Construction

    Sri Mari Mata, Hindu, Temple Construction
    The above are screengrabs from a news report aired about the construction work at the site.

  • There is consensus that the original building of the temple dates back some 150 years.

  • There is also consensus that it was old, and for renovation purposes, the deities were moved to a smaller chamber adjacent to the original building after a communal prayer (puja).

  • The Soldier Bazaar police station is located a stone's throw from the temple.

More than meets the eye

According to Rekha Bai, the resident caretaker of the temple and per initial investigations undertaken by the SHRC, the issue is more than that of razing a temple.

Rekha Bai, in television interviews from the room where the deities were moved to, claimed that her family has been taking care of the temple for three generations now.

She added that before her, her father was the caretaker of the compound where the temple was located. She added that her family has been living here for 150 years, and the land was gifted to her family and not to the Hindu community by the city's former British masters.

She stated that the construction work was to build homes for her family, who have lived here for over a century.

Rekha added that there were two brothers, Mobeen and Aleem, who are residents of a neighbouring building, Ghousia Apartments. She accused them of extortion.

She claimed that a dispute arose when her construction included a tall building which would close off the windows of Mobeen and Aleem's home. She further claimed that the brothers had demanded money from her as compensation.

Initial investigations by SHRC Board Member Sikhdev Assardas Hemanani show that there is an intra-community dispute on the property as well, between Rekha and the Madrasi Hindu Panchayat, who claim that the land belongs to the community who manage it and not to an individual.

The SHRC investigation, however, stated that demolition had taken place in the residential area of the compound, which has already been under construction for a while now.

It added that the destruction of the temple deeply hurt the sentiments of the local Hindu community. It recommended a thorough investigation of the matter.

Sindh Human Rights Council, Hindu Temple, Mari Mata Mandir

Meanwhile, Wahab has confirmed that an inquiry has been launched, and the local Hindu community has been involved in the matter.

Significance of the temple

The Mari Mata Temple is among the older temples in Soldier Bazaar.

There is not one Mari Mata Temple in the city with such temples also found in the nearby neighbourhood of Dholi Khaata, Ratan Talao and even as far as on Akbar Road in Saddar.