Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Friday deferred the proposed May 29 strike commemorating Shopian ‘rape and murder’ tragedy, by a day for the celebration of Pandit festival in north-east of Kashmir.
Geelani said that the decision was taken after a number of Pandits from Kashmir and outside approached him to inform that the strike call was coinciding with annual Mela-Khir-Bhawani at Tulmula in Ganderbal district.
“We had called the strike on May 29 to commemorate the third death anniversary of two innocent Shopian women who were raped and killed in 2009. But many of my Pandit brothers drew my attention towards the Khir Bhawani festival on the same day. So we decided to postpone the strike by a day,” said 82-year-old Geelani.
“Pandits are a part of us and we have a responsibility to respect their sentiments,” he said.
With the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley during early 1990's, the temple of Khir Bhawani representing Hindu goddess, Ragnya Devi some 27 km from Srinagar has been taken care of by local Muslims.
After the conditions in the valley improved in 2008, the temple has seen a revival of prayers with thousands of devotees especially Migrant Pandits thronging the Temple every year.
The annual festival has become a rare platform where Pandits and Muslims exchange their feelings, a religious bonhomie which has been elusive in the last two decades of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.