Nearly 500 temples in the Valley have been encroached
Pass Shrine and Temple Bill to safeguard Temples in the Valley: APMCC
From Khajuria S Kant in Jammu
With Government continuing to maintain its stoic silence over the passage of Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Temples Bill introduced in State Assembly by previous coalition Government, Hindu organisations are demanding setting up of a board for temples and religious properties in Jammu & Kashmir on the pattern of Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and Muslim Waqf Board to safeguard and maintain these temples and shrines.
At number of places in the valley temples, land, enclosures and temple yards were nibbled away by the miscreants. At some places efforts were made to dispose off the land of the shrines and temples. There is no proper record & inventories of shrines, temples, cremation grounds, Hindu child grave yards and others and so by certain vested elements and government agencies in Kashmir Valley are forcibly grabbing the land belonging to Hindus’ religious places. Except the Dharmarth Trust and a few organisations maximum Hindu shrines and temples were managed by local management committees of KPs in Valley but after the mass exodus of Pandits from Valley in 1989-90 these temples and shrines remained unattended for years together.
In view of these facts Kashmiri Pandits have been demanding for passage of Kashmiri pandits Shrine and Temple Bill to safeguard and maintain these temples and shrines. In this regard various resolutions were moved by Kashmiri Pandit organisations since eighties as well as during the period of displacement in which we appealed to the government as well as political organisations of J&K state for passage of Temples and Shrines Bill in the state Assembly but all in vain.
Vinod Pandit, chairman, All Party Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC) has started an indefinite hunger strike in Jammu from October 7 demanding the passing of the pending Temples and Shrines Bill in Legislative Assembly, probe into the multi-crore temple and shrines land encroachment, demanding dialogue with Pakistan for facilitating visit to Sharda Peeth in PoK, establishment of Sharda Peeth University, one time compensation for over-aged youth and special employment package for non-migrant Hindus of Valley.
Vinod Pandit while talking to ‘Organiser’ said there is considerable proof of temple sites being encroached in the Valley. “Over the years about 80 per cent of temples have been encroached by leaders and activists of mainstream parties in collusion with the land mafia,” he said.
“If the government wants the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, then we need to know what steps they are taking to restore our places of worship as it plays an important role in building confidence among the masses,” Pandit said. The party had earlier in March this year alleged that nearly 500 temples in the Valley have been encroached and had demanded a CBI probe into the matter.
Pandit also demanded of opening of the route to historical Shardha Peeth in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and he told that Centre should initiate a “concrete dialogue” with Pakistan in this regard. He asked the government to establish the much awaited Shardha Peeth University without any delay and also recommended the passing of Temples and Shrines Bill in Jammu &Kashmir legislative assembly, which will serve as confidence building measure for Kashmiri Pandits (KP) willing to return to their homeland.
The chairman said, “These are the long pending demands of Kashmiri migrants which need immediate attention to save the 5,000 year old cultural heritage of Kashmiri Pandits in Valley and outside.”
Leaders of several Dogra and Kashmiri organisations have given their full support to Vinod Pandit for his struggle to extract the time frame assurance from the Government to take up the six-point charter of demands of APMCC which concerned the whole Hindu community of State as well as rest of India.
Sunita Sharma, president Rural Women Foundation, is also on the hunger strike in support of APMCC since October, 8.
Amidst fears that their condition might begin to deteriorate as they complete 80 and 60 hours of continuous fasting majority of Jammu based organisations including VHP and BJP extended full support to the hunger strike while regretting that the government’s attitude of ignoring the agitators with no government representative caring to visit the spot to enquire the welfare of those sitting on hunger strike.
To set the things right the Government should take immediate steps regarding the passage of the Bill to bring all temples and shrines including those which are being looked after by Dharmarth Trust and other Hindu bodies under its control and other demands.