Srinagar, May 29: Hundreds of Kashmiri Hindus on Tuesday thronged the temple of Ragnya Devi in the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, to celebrate the annual festival of Kheer Bhawani.
The temple witnessed massive crowds of devotees, most of them migrant Kashmiri Hindus, who made the journey from various Indian states.
Walking barefoot, the devotees carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.
The Kashmiri Pandits prayed for peace and harmony in the valley. Local Kashmiri Muslims showed a great interest as they were busy selling the materials for the rituals and also paying a visit to the shrine.
“I am so happy that I came here. I prayed for peace and harmony. I was glad to see young boys, both Muslims and Hindus, making arrangements for the festival,” said Santosh Kaw, a Kashmiri Pandit who is visiting the temple after 27 years.
Kaw, who lived in the Chanapora locality of Srinagar, left Kashmir for New Delhi in 1990 at the peak of militancy.
Another Kashmiri Pandit, Raj Kumar, who was born in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar locality but moved to winter capital said this is a festival of Hindus but what I saw here is an example of brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Indian administered Kashmir Omar Abdullah visited Kheer Bhawani (Tulmulla) and interacted with a large number of Kashmiri Hindu devotees. He exchanged wishes, enquired their welfare and extended greetings on the occasion. He also inspected various stalls installed by different government departments and others at the Mela.
Later, talking to mediamen, Omar said the economic package in the shape of employment to the youth of the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir is an important step to help return of these families. “While peace and security atmosphere is gaining ground gradually and Kashmir Government has implemented half of the employment package for Kashmiri Pandits, the situation is becoming more and more palatable for their return,” he said.
He said the Kashmir Government is taking up the issue of enhancing financial support to Kashmiri Pandits to enable them construct their residential houses in the Valley. “A proposal will be discussed in the Cabinet in this regard and presented to the Government of India for release of funds”, he added.
The Chief Minister said that Kashmiri Pandits are an integral part of the culture and ethos of Kashmir.
Meanwhile, pro-independence JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik said all Kashmiris are waiting for the return of th Kashmir Pandits and continue to remain hopeful of their return.
He alongwith some other separatist leaders including Shabir Shah, Javed Mir visited Tulmulla in Ganderbal to welcome Kashmiri Pandit devotees apart from expressing his good wishes to the Pandit devotees.
“You (pandits) are an integral part of our social fabric and our society is incomplete without you”, Malik told the devotees while interacting with them.
He said, “We may have different religious faiths but that does not mean that we cannot coexist”, Malik added.
Urging Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes, he said Kashmiri Muslims are tolerant and would never hurt the non-Muslim minorities. “Our Prophet (PBUH) has made it obligatory for us to take care of non-Muslim minorities and we will always uphold the ethos of protecting pandit brothers”.