Deepak Zazia, Srinagar
By paying obeisance at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple, situated about 25 kilometers from Srinagar city, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti has given a clear message to the whole world about changing scenario in Kashmir Valley. Mehbooba Mufti’s visit to the most revered Hindu shrine, during annual festival, has inculcated confidence among displaced Kashmiri Hindus, who were forced to leave their homes and hearths in early 1990s after eruption of terrorism in the Valley.
Mehbooba Mufti’s Kheer Bhawani visit followed by ‘Darshar Maha Kumbh’, which was held in Kashmir Valley after a gap of 75 years attached significant because these two events substantiated the claims that situation is taking positive turn in the Valley after a gap of nearly 30 years.
Over-whelming participation of devotees in these two events is an indication that fear of terrorism has disappeared and the displaced community has decided to restore sanctity of its religious places with the support of incumbent PDP-BJP dispensation under the leadership of Mehbooba Mufti. It is result of the policies being propagated by the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that shattered confidence of minorities in J&K has restored.
The way Muslims of Kashmir Valley have supported their Hindu brethren in celebrating these two festivals also gave a very positive message. It is a reflection that separatists and other anti-national groups have been sidelined and commoners in Kashmir Valley are concerned about development and their social economic growth.
Keeping the centuries old tradition alive, Muslims living in the town came to greet the devotees. Some Muslims also offered milk to the devotees at Kheer Bhawani temple which was received with love and reverence by members of the Pandit community.
On June 14, thousands and thousands of Hindus, mostly migrant Kashmiri Pandits, were gathered at the ‘Sangam’ of the Jhelum River and Sindh in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir to celebrate ‘Darshar Maha Kumbh’. Darshar Maha Kumbh was organised in Kashmir after a gap of 75 years. The festival was held on the confluence of sacred Sindhu and Vitasta rivers in Ganderbal district of Kashmir. Taking a dip at the junction of rivers at Shadipora is considered to be auspicious as per the Hindu mythology. The Maha Kumbh this year has been declared by Omkar Nath Shastri, an astrologer whose family is known for publishing Panchang (Hindu almanac) for Kashmiris before the Pandit migration took place in early 1990s. At this confluence of Jhelum river and Sindh stream Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years and Ardh Kumbh every six years, said Bharat Raina, convener of Tuesday’s function at Sangam.
“On this day, the devotees take a bath at the holy Sangam to wash away their sins and then proceed to the little island at the confluence where a Chinar tree has been growing since long,” he said. “This little piece of land at the confluence is the sanctum sanctorum of the holy place. Devotees offer water to the Shivling on this island. After the Havan, the devotees will take ‘Prasad’ and distribute it among their near and dear ones back home,” said Raina.
This is the first time since the migration of local Pandits from the Valley that they have come in such large numbers to be part of the Maha Kumbh at Saidipora Sangam. King C Bharti, leader of the All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee, said that people have People have come here to attend the programme. It is a very big deal for Kashmiri Pandits as they are bathing in Maha Kumbh.
As far as this year’s Kheer Bhawani festival is concerned, it is significant in the sense that Chief Minister herself visited the temple and offered prayer.
Thousands and thousands of Hindus including Kashmiri Pandits on prayed at the famous temple of Ragnya Devi in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on the occasion of annual Kheer Bhawani mela. As a bus of devotees was stoned by some miscreants, Chief Minister made it a point to visit the shrine and interacted with the devotees and those who were injured in the stone pelting.
Mehbooba Mufti said there was a need to instill confidence among Kashmiri Pandits for their permanent return to the Valley and the present situation was not such that they could live in their native places. “I feel that by coming here in such large numbers and meeting people here, the confidence will increase and slowly a time will come that these people will return to live here,” she said. Invoking the ethos of 'Kashmiriyat', the Chief Minister also praised local Muslims for participating in the festival at the temple, which is thronged by Kashmiri Pandits. “I will only appeal to Kashmiri Pandits that they should trust us and pray. We are trying to create peace here, Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits,” Mehbooba told reporters here after paying obeisance at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple. She said there was a need to infuse confidence among the community before they could go back to their native places
“To infuse confidence among them, first they will be brought to transit camps, transit communities, where our Muslim migrants will also live with them. Once their confidence grows, then they can live wherever they want,” the chief minister said.
She said the present situation was not such that Pandits could live in their native places and referred to stone pelting incident in south Kashmir's Kulgam district where a police post was pelted with stones. A vehicle carrying Kashmiri Pandits for the festival at Kheer Bhawani temple got caught in it.
“Whoever is saying this (that Pandits be settled in their native places) be it National Conference, Congress or other parties, they should think if the situation is such right now can Kashmiri Pandits live there after yesterday's incident,” Mehbooba said.
She said children belonging to poor families were being used by some people in Kashmir for stone pelting and it was time for the people of Kashmir to ponder upon that. “There are some elements in Kashmir who are anti-social and are using poor people for stone-pelting. The poor children they are using will face stigma from society forever,” she said. The chief minister said they will be called stone pelters even if they got educated and achieved something in life.
She also expressed satisfaction over a large number of devotees visiting the Kheer Bhawani temple this year..