The annual Kheer Bhawani Mela at Tullamula in Srinagar, considered the biggest congregation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, was celebrated with traditional fervour on Tuesday.
Despite rain and bad weather, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits from all over the country visited the state to attend this most important festival of pandits, wherein goddess Ragnya Devi is worshipped. While the local Kashmiri Muslims make arrangements for the fair, the Hindus hold night-long prayers in the temple.
Resettlement a non-issue
The devotees, who have come here on a purely religious trip, seem to be unaffected by the recent controversy over the proposed resettlement of migrant pandits in separate townships in Kashmir. The proposal had evoked sharp reactions from national and regional political parties, besides all separatist groups.
For Tikka Lal and his wife Sarla, life has "moved on too much'' over the past 25 years to even think of "resettlement" now.
"We have come to attend the mela because we want to keep in touch with our roots and traditions. Our children simply refused to join us. They were born and brought up outside Kashmir. Their life is there. They are not willing to come back and settle here," said Tikka Lal, a teacher who once lived in Magam in the Valley, but is now a resident of Delhi.
For Roshan Lal Mattu, another pandit who had settled in Jammu after 1990, the resettlement issue is just a "political gimmick".
"We know nobody is sincere about resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits. Neither the state government nor the Centre. We have just become a slogan and they are doing politics in our name," he said.
According to some families, those pandits who had to come back to the Valley have done so already. "Many pandit families have returned and are living peacefully in areas like Indira Nagar in the heart of Srinagar,'' said Prem Nath, another Delhi resident.
"They don't need barricades and policemen guarding them round-the-clock. These are just slogans," he added.
50 buses pressed into service
Meanwhile, the state government has taken all steps to facilitate smooth and peaceful conduct of the fair. More than 50 State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses were pressed into service to bring the devotees to the temple. Many social and political organisations have set up stalls in the mela area. The locals Muslims have also set up shops to sell flowers and milk to devotees.
The Kheer Bhawani Mela is held in the Valley every year on the 'Jyesht Ashtami' when Kashmiri Pandits offer prayers to seek the blessings of Ragnya Devi.