Herath sees Muslims, displaced Pandits bond like old times, albeit in virtual world
Separated after an armed rebellion broke in Kashmir in the 1990s, this year's Shivaratri, known as 'Herath' in local nomenclature, sees local Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits bonding like old times: however in the virtual world.
Hundreds of Muslims were busy greeting Kashmiri Pandits, now living in various parts of the country following mass migration in the wake of militancy, on social networking sites.
Netizens created hash tags 'Herath' on micro-blogging site Twitter to reach out to Pandits. And in many cases, the exchange of greetings was taking place among the people who have never met or seen each other.
"I have not met a Kashmiri Pandit ever," admitted Pervaiz Jan, a college student in Srinagar.
Many prominent Pandit leaders recalled old days to invoke memories still dear to the older generation of Kashmiri Muslims, who spent good times with Pandits as neighbours, colleagues and friends.
"Shivaratri of my childhood was exotic and much-awaited. After waiting for the priest to conclude the Wattak Puza, we eyed the delicacies, playing around with seep shells. Amidst the rain or snow, whichever succeeded in complying with the erstwhile saying, Wuchton Ye Jabar JandeE. Harras Ti Korun Wandhe (look at Jabbar's poorly-clothed ascetic, Harras too turned into peak of winters), and 'Herath' kharche, the coming morning. Loads of friends landing up for salaam are what I'll dream of tonight," wrote renowned Delhi-based oncologist Sameer Kaul, also a leader with People's Democratic Party (PDP).
His post on the Facebook triggered a wave of warm messages from Muslims.
"Come back to your roots. Come back to your land. Do not polticise the tragedy. Kashmir is incomplete without Pandits. You will find same love, same warmth and great respect from your Muslim brethren. Let all of us live together. We miss you," wrote back Shakeel Rather, a resident of Kashmir.
Many Muslims described the Pandit migration of the early 1990s as "unfortunate chapter" of Kashmir's history.
"The most unfortunate event in Kashmir's history is the exodus of Kashmiri brothers from the valley. Our culture is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits living side by side," wrote Shakeel Rather, another Kashmiri Muslim.
Arjimand Hussain Talib, a leading columnist, also recalled the old tradition of Kashmir Pandits distributing water-soaked walnuts to Muslim neighbours.
"With love to all my Pandit friends: You're being missed today. So are the watered walnuts and the special spicy fish! Enjoy Herath!" wrote Talib.
Meanwhile, around 1,000 Pandit families, who decided to stay back, thronged temples in the valley.
Srinagar's Hanuman Temple and Shari Devi Temple witnessed rush since the morning amid chants and hymns.
"Kashmir is normal for Kashmiri Pandits now. There is no fear of militancy like the yesteryears. We like any other Kashmiri Muslim," said Vijay Dhar, a local who did not migrate.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah also greeted the community on the occasion.
The displacement of Pandits did sow seeds of bitterness between the new generation on both sides. Social networking sites, however, are providing a rare platform to thrash many ill-found myths creeping between the two communities.
Amidst the rain or snow, whichever succeeded in complying with the erstwhile saying, Wuchton Ye Jabar JandeE. Harras Ti Korun Wandhe.