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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 July 2024

Jammu & Kashmir: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq urges Kashmiri pandits to return to the Valley

The appeal came as thousands of Pandits on Friday participated in the annual Mela Kheer Bhawani, one of the community’s biggest festivals in Kashmir, at the Kheer Bhawani temple in the Tulmulla area of Ganderbal

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 15.06.24, 05:46 AM
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq File Photo

Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday appealed to Kashmiri Pandits from the pulpit of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid to return to the Valley and asked the majority Muslims to help the process.

The appeal came as thousands of Pandits on Friday participated in the annual Mela Kheer Bhawani, one of the community’s biggest festivals in Kashmir, at the Kheer Bhawani temple in the Tulmulla area of Ganderbal.

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Kashmiri politicians including Farooq Abdullah, CPM veteran Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, Iltija Mufti and Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina visited the shrine to express solidarity with the Pandits and said they were hopeful of their return.

Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, too, visited the shrine. He said some 30,000 Pandits had participated in the festival.

Tens of thousands of Pandits had fled the Valley following the outbreak of militancy in 1989-90.

The festival is being observed at a time when the Jammu region has witnessed multiple militant attacks that have left nine pilgrims, a CRPF man and two militants dead and dozens injured over the past week.

The Mirwaiz, who has rarely been allowed to visit the Jamia Masjid, where he is the head priest, said thousands of Pandits had arrived in the Valley and that they were welcome.

“We want to tell them that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have from the beginning desired they should return to their homes. This pulpit is witness that we made efforts in the past as well,” he told a large congregation of Muslims.

“We will continue our efforts in the future as well, God willing. The brotherhood that once existed should be restored.”

He continued: “We always strove for it and said it was not ja political but a human issue. Let the Kashmir issue remain on one side; their return is a human issue. Instead of digging up old wounds, we should try to heal the wounds and work for reconciliation.

“In this there is responsibility on them as well as us, but as the majority community it is our duty that we welcome them and speed up efforts for their return to their homeland.”

The Mirwaiz stressed that Kashmir’s Pandits and Muslims share a common language, culture and upbringing.

He also urged the authorities to end their policy of oppression, saying it would only widen existing gulfs.

Heavy security arrangements were made at the temple, dedicated to Rangya Devi. The festival, which marks the Zyeth Atham or Jyeshtha Ashtami, is also held in other shrines in Jammu and Kashmir.

The devotees, including women and children, jostled for space at the Kheer Bhawani temple, chanting hymns and showering rose petals.

Sinha said the government provided 200 buses in Jammu to ferry the devotees to Ganderbal.

“More than 30,000 devotees visited the Kheer Bhawani temple. The Jammu and Kashmir administration and those who have faith in the deity have made the best arrangements,” he told reporters.

“Last year, when I came here, pilgrims had requested a Yatri Niwas. I spoke to the officials concerned. A Yatri Niwas that will accommodate 1,000 pilgrims will be built. I’m told that it will come up in the next eight months.”

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said Valley Muslims wanted the Pandits to return and live together in peace and brotherhood.

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