Khajuria S Kant in Jammu
The government's delaying tactics in the enactment of a law for protection of hundreds of Hindu shrines and temples in the Valley has generated a lot of resentment among the Kashmiri Pandits in view of the increasing encroachment of the religious places by land mafia and the government agencies.
Intensifying their agitation for passage of Shrines and Temples Protection and Management Bill in current session of the State Assembly, Kashmiri Pandits, cutting across their party affiliations, staged a demonstration in front of the Press Club on March 12.
The demonstration was held on the call of Pt Prem Nath Bhat Memorial Trust, which is spearheading the ongoing movement for the enactment of the law for protection and management of Hindu shrines and temples in the Valley, most of whom are now in a dilapidated condition.
The leaders of all Kashmiri Pandits political, social and religious bodies participated in the demonstration. They expressed grave concern over the condition of the Hindu shrines in the Valley whose land has been encroached by anti-social elements as well as some government agencies on their own.
They said the sentiments of entire community across the globe are attached with these shrines and temples, most of them have been vandalised after the mass exodus of the community 22 years ago. “For their protection and management we wanted a statutory board on the pattern of Auqaf Board for protection of Muslim shrines and Gurdwara Prabandhak Board and Committees for protection of Sikh Gurdwaras in the State,” said a member of the Trust.
Though the entire community including those Kashmiri Pandits who are residing outside the country were optimistic that government will bring the Bill on the last day of the session but Government showed no signs of the same. The coalition also came under a steep attack in the Assembly when Panthers' Party MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia sought a reply from the Government for delaying the passage of the Bill, which was introduced in 2008. Shri Mankotia asked Abdul Rahim Rather to explain why when the party was in the Opposition in the Assembly, he favoured the Bill but now he is against the same. In reply Shri Rather said that he still has the same stand. Later, talking to reporters, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohd Sagar said there is hindrance in the passage of the Bill as some forces are not in favour of the Bill and that the government is trying to come to a consensus on the issue.
Meanwhile, the encroachment at shrines like Vaitaal Bhairav at Rainawaari in Srinagar is at its galore in the Valley and the land has been illegally sold by the land mafia. This has led to resentment among the Kashmiri Pandits and the matter has also been criticised globally by Kashmir Overseas Association (KOA) which has seriously protested against the encroachment of Hindu religious places and shrines. So far scores of such shrines have been sold by the land mafia in connivance with the so-called Trusts and Organisations.
All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC) organised a demonstration in Srinagar on April 9 against Dharmarth Trust for illegal sale of historic Vitaal Bhairav temple at Motiyar, Rainawari in Srinagar and demanded a CBI probe into the whole affair including other encroachments of temple lands in Kashmir.
The demonstrators led by APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit, King C Bharati, Journalist Sanjay Koul, APMCC leader Ashiq Hussain Dar, social activist Jeevan Singh Jamwal, Jangu Singh Jamwal and Manoj Bhat, general secratary MKPC, were shouting slogans against Dr Karan Singh, Diwakar Singh, State and Central Government as well as against Smt Sonia Gandhi for shielding people like Dr Karan Singh who has sold out the temple lands in Kashmir to land mafia in his capacity as the sole Trusty of the Dharmarth Trust.
The demonstrators, also joined by local Muslims, said that Dharmarth Trust was selling the temple lands in connivance with land mafia adding that nobody would be allowed to damage Kashmiriyat and hundreds of years old heritage of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir.
They also appealed to the civil society of Kashmir to support their cause as any damage to Kashmiri Pandit heritage would severely damage the secular character and historic ethos of Kashmiriyat in the Valley. They said even during the Pathan rule Vitaal Bhairav temple was safe but it is ironical that under Omar Abdullah and Sonia led-UPA Government the Dharmarth Trust headed by Dr Karan Singh has indulged in open loot of temples in Jammu & Kashmir. They added that it is Dr Karan Singh who has been stalling the passage of Temple Bill in state assembly using his influence on Omar Government. They denounced Congress for shielding and promoting people like Dr Karan Singh whose Trust has been indulging in illegal sale of historic temples of Kashmiri Pandits to land mafia.