Amit Shah virtually inaugurates Maa Sharda temple near LoC in Kashmir
Home minister Amit Shah inaugurated the Maa Sharda temple through video conferencing and assured to work for the opening of pilgrimage to Sharda Peeth in PoK on the pattern of Kartarpur Corridor in Punjab, while local sarpanch Abdul Rashid Khokar threw it open for the public by opening its gate.
A Maa Sharda temple and a gurdwara were opened at Teetwal in the frontier district of Kupwara near the Line of Control on one of the base camps en route the traditional Sharda Peeth, an ancient Hindu temple in Neelam Valley in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, which has been out of bounds since 1947.
Home minister Amit Shah inaugurated the temple through video conferencing and assured to work for the opening of pilgrimage to Sharda Peeth in PoK on the pattern of Kartarpur Corridor in Punjab, while local sarpanch Abdul Rashid Khokar threw it open for the public by opening its gate.
“Ravinder Pandita sought to fast open the Sharda Peeth pilgrimage on the pattern of Kartarpur Corridor (in Punjab). Certainly, the Government of India will work in this direction,” Shah said in his address through video conferencing.
“After the revocation of Article 370 with the efforts of PM Narendra Modi, peace has been established in the Valley that has again led Kashmir as well as Jammu towards old traditions, civilisation and ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb’,” he said.
The temple construction was made possible owing to the campaign of Ravinder Pandita, a Kashmiri migrant pandit and head of Save Sharda Committee with the help of local Muslims in Kupwara.
“When we came here in 2021, nobody would have thought that we would have some land here and then we could construct a temple and gurdwara burnt in 1947. There was divine intervention in Kashmir,” he said.
He said that the place was one of the four base camps in north Kashmir to Sharda Peeth, which used to be a pilgrimage site during Maharaja’s rule before Independence.
He said it was on the insistence of local Muslims that they constructed the temple and gurdwara. “The locals informed us and pointed us towards a piece of land which was in the name of temple and dharmshala here and they told us we should construct these religious places in Teetwal. Besides, the army also insisted,” he said.
Pandita attributed its success to all Kashmiris. “This is a matter of happiness for all Kashmiris. The way people are enthusiastic and there are celebrations, this has to be counted. This is not just a temple but heritage and Sharda civilisation,” he said.
The ruins of Sharda Peeth lie across the LoC in Neelam Valley, some 56 km from Teetwal in Kupwara or 160 km from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK. The temple became out of bounds for people on this side after the Partition. In earlier centuries, the temple was also a seat of learning, a grand university.
“Our university used to be the oldest, even older than Nalanda. The goal of our committee would be to strive for opening of roads from both sides, a confidence-building measure. Till pilgrimages are started from both sides we won’t stop,” he said.
Pandita insisted that the government should start religious pilgrimages from this side of LoC and also from the other side. “We have a right of pilgrimage to go to Sharda and those people have a right to come to (Dargah) Hazratbal in Srinagar,” he said.
Local panch Nisar Ahmad Mir said that it was a happy day for him. “Our elders would say that there was a city here before 1947. Its memory has revived after 75 years. We want further development,” Mir said.
He said that local Muslims, like pandits, also want peace and opening of roads.
Mehbooba welcomes move
People Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti was also appreciative of the move. “This is very good. We have always been saying that we need to engage, reconcile and resolve. Opening of Sharda temple is a good thing, something which Kashmiri Pandits were looking forward to. I hope it will not be restricted to pilgrimage only but will go beyond that,” she said.