Hindus, Muslims join hands for peace

After a gap of 20 years, a Shiva temple in Shopian of South Kashmir   was recently reopened, and a big delegation of migrant Pandits came all the way from Jammu to take part in the special prayers at their ancestral place.

Not only did the delegation offer prayers but also staged a joint “dharna” (sit in) with the local Muslims in support of the demand that the culprits responsible for the rape and murder of a teenaged girl and her sister-in-law in Shopian on May 29 be arrested. This was also for the first time in the last 20 years that the migrants staged a “dharna” along with Muslims in Kashmir. During their three-day-long stay in Shopian, the Pandits interacted with thousands of Muslims. They included a large number of youngsters, who saw Pandits for the first time in their lives.

“We (Muslims and Hindus) are the same people with a common language, culture and lifestyles. I was extremely happy on seeing the Pandits. I was very keen to meet them. We hope that they return to their homes permanently now,” said Basit Ahmad, a student.

Mass migration

Kashmir witnessed mass migration of Hindus in the early 90s after  militancy started. Most of them migrated to Jammu, 300 km from Srinagar, and elsewhere. Only a few thousand Pandits decided to stay back.

 After the situation improved,  with restoration of democracy post-1996, the government made efforts which failed to make the migrants return.  Every year thousands of Pandits visit the Mata Kheer Bhawani temple in Tulmulla Ganderbal in Central Kashmir for a couple of days when Muslims and Hindu come together.

But the re-opening of the Shiva temple at Shopian provided a platform for the Hindus and Muslims to socialise with each other. This process helps to remove the mistrust following the mass migration to some extent.

Forget the bitterness

The arrival of the migrants in Shopian and their participation in “dharna” for the fight for justice sent a strong signal across south Kashmir. While the government machinery failed to re-connect the members of the two communities, people on their own came forward to forget the bitterness of the past and start working for new era of trust and communal brotherhood.

Prithvi Nath Pandita, who  led the delegation, said coming to his ancestral town was like a dream come true. “I was born in Shopian, educated here and was working as a teacher till the migration. Many of my students are excelling in different fields of life. I am proud of them,” he said.

Prithvi Nath said he was happy over peace returning to Shopian. “I too want to return to my home along with my family. No Kashmiri would like to stay away from Kashmir, the Paradise on Earth. I and my family are a part and parcel of this heaven, and I want to spend the last days my life here only,” he said. Rakesh, another migrant said they had come to Shopian for prayers. “But we had also decided to show solidarity with our brethren and the bereaved family in Shopian and take part in the dharna. Even in Jammu we held a condolence meeting and issued a statement, condemning the incident and demanding the arrest of the guilty,” he said.

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