Right wing organisations had opposed naming road after non-Muslim

The issue of renaming Lahore’s Fawara Chowk after revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh crossed a hurdle on Wednesday with a panel of experts clearing the proposal. Now it is for the City District Government of Lahore to notify the recommendation of the ‘Dilkash Lahore Committee’ tasked with renaming select roads and places in the city.

Renaming the road in Lahore’s Shadman area after Bhagat Singh was put on hold and referred to the committee late October by the District Coordination Officer (DCO) following objections by some right wing organisations, including the Jamat-ud-Dawah. They opposed naming a road after a non-Muslim. The DCO had ordered the renaming of Fawara Chowk (also referred by some as Shadman Chowk) after Bhagat Singh on his 105th birth anniversary on September 29.

According to committee member Ahmad Rafay Alam, no one in the committee — which included five ulema — opposed the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. “No one on the committee has opposed it, as far as I know. There were some people who said we shouldn’t commemorate non-Muslims. There were five Ulema on the committee, including from Badshahi Mosque and Jamia Naeemi, and no one objected,” he said in various posts on Twitter.

Till Partition, the roundabout was called Bhagat Singh Chowk in memory of the fact that the revolutionary was hanged there by the British on March 23, 1931, for his role in the Lahore Conspiracy Case. Viewing Bhagat Singh purely as an Indian freedom fighter, Pakistan renamed the place soon after Independence.

For over a decade now, civil society activists have been demanding that Shadman/Fawara Chowk should revert to its old name; arguing that he was as much a part of Pakistani history as he is of India. Their joy over the DCO’s September 29 decision changed to dismay a month later when the matter was put on hold though theatre-activist Madeeha Gohar maintained the development came as no surprise given the way in which the Pakistani State has been consistently buckling to right wing pressures and ceding space to them. So now, despite the committee’s nod, the celebrations are yet to start.

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