For the first time since militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1989, a Janmashtami procession organised by Pandits passed through the famous Lal Chowk here on Monday, signifying a perceptible improvement in the situation in the strife-ridden Valley.
Another signifier of change was the participation in the celebrations by separatist leader and chief of the Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Ahmad Shah at the Ganpatyar temple from where the procession began.
The Janmashtami procession was preceded by a grand mahayagya at Lord Shiva’s temple in Bijbehara last week. Amidst chants praising Lord Krishna on Monday, the Pandits took out
the procession from Ganpatyar temple of Lord Ganesha and passed through Jahangir Chowk, Lal Chowk, Maulana Azad Road and Dal Gate.
The eruption of militancy had led to a mass exodus of Pandits from the Valley. However, with the improvement in the situation — a miniscule number (around 4,000) of them, who stayed back — are re-establishing their links with their culture that had remained dormant for nearly two decades.
“This is for the first time since 1989 that the procession passed through Lal Chowk,” said Sanjay Tikoo, secretary of the Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, a representative body of Kashmiri Pandits, which had organised the celebrations. Journalist Manohar Lalgami said, “It is the most satisfying day of my life. The march carried the message of the return of good days.” Another Pandit participant said the procession was an open invitation to their migrant brethren to return to their homeland.