Two Pakistani men belonging to a radical group and motivated by “religious biases” were behind the vandalisation of a statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh here, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
The incident took place on Saturday near the grave of the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire in Shahi Qila which was opened for visitors.
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, breaking one of its arms and damaging other parts of the statue.
Security guards rushed to the spot and captured the attackers who were chanting slogans against the former ruler of Punjab.
Superintendent of Police Syed Ghazanfar Shah told the Dawn newspaper 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’s 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 nine-foot statue, made of cold bronze, was unveiled at the Lahore Fort in June on the 180th death anniversary of Maharaja.
The statue showed the regal Sikh emperor sitting on a horse, sword in hand, complete in Sikh attire.
Police have arrested the two men and registered a case against them under the country’s blasphemy laws.
The suspects belonged to Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan of radical cleric Maulana Khadim Rizvi.
The Walled City of Lahore Authority, responsible for the matters of the Lahore Fort, expressed shock and has vowed to repair the statue soon.
“This is quite unfortunate incident. We will enhance security at the Lahore Fort so that no such incident should take place in the future,” Walled City of Lahore Authority spokesperson Tania Qureshi told PTI on Saturday.
“The statue’s restoration will be carried out from next week. Once it is repaired it will be opened for the public again,” Qureshi said.
It took eight months to complete the statue of the Sikh ruler sitting on his favourite horse named Kahar Bahar with a sword in hand. The horse was a gift from Dost Muhammad Khan, the founder of the Barazkai dynasty.
The statue was built and installed by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) in collaboration with the UK-based Sikh Heritage Foundation, which funded the project.