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Monday, 18 April 2011|| Andrew Buncombe || The Independent
By restoring temples in the Muslim region of Kashmir, the Pandit community is also preserving its past. Andrew Buncombe reports :
At a Hindu temple in the centre of Srinagar, Sanjay Tickoo scattered petals, lit a candle and quietly voiced the words of a prayer. He then stepped backwards, slid shut a metal grille and carefully locked-up the premises with a sturdy padlock.
Twenty five years ago, Mr Tickoo’s actions would have been unremarkable. Though the Kashmir valley has for centuries had a Muslim majority, its Hindu population – commonly known as Pandits – were always an integral part of the community. Some Hindus claim their history here dates back thousands of years.
When a separatist militancy gathered pace two decades ago, up to 400,000 Hindus either fled or were driven out. Many people were killed and most of their properties and temples were sold, destroyed or taken over by the security forces who had been sent in to counter the militants.
But over the last couple of years, something special has been happening in Kashmir. Mr Tickoo and other members of the small Hindu population that remained have set about restoring the temples, shrines and other sacred places. He claims several dozen such places have been repaired or reactivated.
“After the mass exodus of the Pandits, around 98 per cent of the temples were not attended. Only 23 temples have remained in constant use,” said 42-year-old Mr Tickoo, president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, an NGO.
“We are doing it to improve Kashmiri society. But when we say we have a 5,000-year history in Kashmir … the history belongs to me only because of my presence in the valley. My identity is directly linked to the temples. If they disappear I cannot claim we have a 5,000-year history in the valley.”
The plight of Kashmir’s Hindus is one of the overlooked tragedies of south Asia. While Kashmir’s Muslim population has attracted international attention for its long and often violent struggle for autonomy, which has resulted in the Indian authorities dispatching hundreds of thousands of troops and paramilitaries, the Pandits are often forgotten, even in their own country. Today, it is estimated there are fewer than 4,000 (Kashmiri Hindus*) still here in the valley. Read the full story here —–> Courtesy : The Independent
A disputed region where the rights of Hindus have been snatched away by the Islamists:
** Most of the Hindus, or Kashmiri Pandits, almost 400000 in numbers, who fled the Kashmir valley, left in a matter of months between the end of 1989 and 1990 when an armed militancy by elements of the Muslim community demanding autonomy gathered pace. Now it is believed that only 4,000 (Kashmiri Hindus*) still live here in the Kashmir valley.
** Many took the decision to leave after certain mosques broadcast demands for them to quit and newspapers printed similar messages. It was those days when the threats of Raliv, Galiv Ya Chaliv (Convert, die or escape) replaced the sounds of evening Azaan (prayers) from majority of mosques in the valley of Kashmir.
** Gradually, the leadership of the Muslim community has accepted its responsibility for the exodus. And Muslims of Kashmir en-grabbed all the absolute rights of Islam under Sharia, and riduculed the Indian Constitutional frame work.
** Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of a coalition of separatist organisations, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said: “We cannot deny that they had to leave the valley in very difficult circumstances at a time when there was a lot of chaos.” The crocodile’s tear of these Hurriyat and other political leaders cannot shower any solace to the over-plighted Hindus of Kashmir valley.
** Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister of the state and currently a federal minister in Delhi, said earlier this year: “It is our fault [that] the Kashmiri Hindus have been made homeless and forced to live outside.” This gesture of Farooq or Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti for conveying some good for persecuted Hindus is nothing but perfect Al Taqiyya.