First time since militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1989, valley-based Kashmiri Muslims and migrant Pandits, who live outside the valley, have joined hands in Srinagar for a common cause: retrieving temple land from the land mafia.
In a rare protest in Rainawari in old Srinagar, around a dozen Kashmiri Pandits, representing different groups from several places, protested outside the Vaital Bhairavi temple in Motiyar area. The protest, joined by Muslims, was sparked after reports of illegal sale of temple land.
“There is illegal sale of temple land in Kashmir. We demand a CBI probe into it. Temple lands are bring leased out randomly. There is nexus between office bearers of various trusts managing the temple properties in Kashmir and the revenue officials," said Kashmir Pandit Sangarsh Samiti chief Sanjay Tickoo.
A chasm was created between the two communities after Pandits left the valley after rise of militancy in 1990. Around 1,000 Pandit families stayed back amid raging militancy in the state, while tens and thousands of other families left the valley for Jammu and other parts of the country.
The two communities are getting closer again like in the past. “We oppose any illegal sale of temple land,” said Sajid Ahmad, a resident of Rainawari.
In 2008, the high court had issued directions to the revenue department against issuing any revenue extracts of temple properties, lease agreements and sale deeds.
“Despite the court directions, land is being leased out,” alleged Tickoo.
Monday’s protest was organised by the All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC), a joint organization of several Pandit groups, formed to protect temple land in the valley.
Shrines and Temples Bill of 2007, formulated to protect temple land, is yet to be passed by the state assembly. “If the government is serious about temple land then it should pass the Bill,” said APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit.
Civil society members, comprising Muslims and Pandits, have also approached separatists for their support. A delegation met moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday evening.
“Our stand is clear that Kashmir is incomplete without Pandit brethren as they are inseparable part of the society. We are ready to welcome them with open arms and time has come for their return,” said the Mirwaiz.
Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also appealed to Pandits to return to the valley. “Both Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are facing problems because of the pending Kashmir dispute…they can return whenever they want and we will welcome with open arms,” said Geelani.