Court stops Punjab government from notifying panel decision

As anticipated by some civil society activists, the bid to rename Lahore’s Fawara Chowk in the Shadman area after revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has hit another road block — the Lahore High Court on Friday stopped the Punjab government from notifying a government-appointed committee’s decision in this regard.

Two days after the ‘Dilkash Lahore Committee’ cleared the proposal to rename Fawara Chowk (also referred by some as Shadman Chowk) after Bhagat Singh, the Tehrik Hurmat e Rasool moved the High Court. According to a PTI report from Lahore, the petitioner alleged that the Bhagat Singh Foundation — one of the organisations advocating the renaming of the roundabout after the revolutionary who was hanged there — was funded by Indian spy agency RAW.

The Tehrik Hurmat e Rasool is headed by Amir Hamza, a leader of the Jamat ‘ud’ Da’wah (JuD), which has been objecting to the move ever since the District Coordination Officer announced the decision to revert to Fawara/Shadman Chowk’s old name, Bhagat Singh Chowk, on his 105th birth anniversary on September 29.

In view of the protests, the matter was referred to the ‘Dilkash Lahore Committee,’ which approved the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday. The committee had five ulema — including from the Badshahi Mosque and Jamia Naeemi — and no one objected to the proposal at the meeting though some were of the general view that non-Muslims should not be commemorated.

The JuD and others subscribing to the right wing ideology are also of the opinion that since Pakistan is a Muslim country, its major roads and roundabouts should not bear non-Islamic names. They also staged demonstrations in Lahore on Thursday and eye-witnesses said one of the photographs on a JuD banner suggested that renaming the roundabout after Bhagat Singh amounted to an attack on ‘Nazaria-e-Pakistan’ (ideology of Pakistan).

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 revert to its old name, arguing that Bhagat Singh was as much a part of Pakistani history as he was of India’s. And, over the past couple of years, they have made it a point to refer to Fawara/Shadman Chowk as ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’ to register their determination to challenge the official narrative.