Yekjah 2019: Kashmiri Pandits in Pune bat and bowl for home at annual cricket tournament

Members of the Kashmiri Pandit community gather on January 19, every year and take part in a cricket tournament to honour the Exodus day.(HT PHOTO)
Members of the Kashmiri Pandit community gather on January 19, every year and take part in a cricket tournament to honour the Exodus day.(HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jan 16, 2019 03:06 PM IST
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By Prachi Bari

‘Asyi Aase Yekjah, Asyi Chi Yekjah, Asyi Rozav Yekjah’ ( We were together, we are together and we will be together). The Kashmiri word ‘Yekjah’ which means togetherness holds great significance for the 2,000 Kashmiri Pandit families that reside in the city. In January every year, the Kashmiri Pandit community residing in Pune comes together for their biggest get-together.

“We began the annual gathering Yekjah, in 2011. This year marks the 8th edition,” said Sunil Raina, organiser and member trustee of the Kashmir Hindu Sabha in Pune.

“The idea is to conduct a cricket tournament as an attempt to bring the community closer,” added Raina.

Exodus day holds a painful memory for most Kashmiri Pundits as they were evicted from their homeland. Raina said,“I was 10 years old when we had to leave our ancestral house with two suitcases. It was January 19,1990 when Kashmiri Pundits were forced to leave Kashmir.” In the 90s the total population of Kashmiri Pandits was 5 lakh and in the militancy upsurge, the first targets were Kashmiri Pandits.

Yekjah is a cricket tournament that the community looks forward to every year. “This tournament has 16 teams from across the country. It also has separate women’s and children’s teams as well. The main event will be held at Mulshi cricket ground, Marunje road, Hinjewadi on January 18, 19 and 20. Cricket is a medium to bring together the youth and the younger generation and help them understand the significance of Exodus day and the pain of losing our homeland,” said Vishal Kotru, member of organising committee of this event.

This tournament is also an introduction to lost culture and language that the young generation does not know about. “We try to speak in Kashmiri when we are all together, so that the children will also learn from us and keep the language alive, the only thing that keeps us connected to our homeland,” said Raina.

The Kashmiri community in Pune

Kashmiri Hindu Sabha (KHS) is a registered trust under Maharashtra Charitable Trust act. It has its origins in the early nineties, post migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. It started with 40 families in Pune and is now 1,600 registered families strong. KHS plays a commendable role in facilitating people who came to Pune from Kashmir and helped them in logistics and settlement. Later it became the epicentre of Kashmiri Pandit activities, from social gatherings to spiritual activities or philanthropic ventures for weaker sections of the community. Every month a hawan (fire ritual) is performed at KHS and the community gathers to take part in it. Kashmiri food is served. KHS also gives importance to cultural programmes throughout the year and holds performances on August 15, January 26 and other religious days.

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