Kashmiri Pandits are celebrating the ‘Hearth’ or ‘Maha Shivratri’ in a subdued manner this year in Kashmir because of a spree of killings of members of the minority community by militants and the migration of hundreds of employees and their families to Jammu in the past one year.
There was marked thin attendance of Pandits thronging to local temples, including the Shitaleshwar Bhairav temple, the Durga Mandir, the Shital Nath Bhairav Mandir etc as the two-day festival started on Friday. Jyeshteshwara Temple and Durga Nag Temple relatively witnessed a rush of Hindus on the occasion.
“Unlike the past, there are lesser number of Pandits visiting the temples in Srinagar this year,” a Hindu priest said.
The Kashmiri Pandit Sangarah Samiti (KPSS), a body of those Pandits who did not leave the Valley in the 1990s, has expressed unhappiness over the arrangements made on ‘Hearth’ festival this year. In a letter addressed to the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, KPSS chairman Sanjay Tickoo asked the administration to ensure availability of fish, flowers, vegetables, especially Nadroo (lotus stem) and walnuts.
“We further request that on Friday to Sunday special instructions be issued to the Power Department to provide un-interrupted power supply so that KP community could perform puja without any problem,” he said.
Kashmiri Pandits are also unhappy because the Lieutenant Governor’s administration has refused to release the salaries of all Pandit employees working in Kashmir. Over 5,500 Pandit employees and their families were displaced in the wake of killing of a Pandit employee, Rahul Bhat, in Budgam and a Hindu teacher, Rajini Bala, in Kulgam in May last year. Most Pandit employees shifted their families from the transit accommodations in Kashmir’s Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla and Kupwara districts to Jammu.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, who recently attended a three-day Maha Shivratri Mahotsav at Jagti Colony and Migrant Camp Buta Nagar in Jammu, announced that only those Pandit employees, recruited under the special Prime Minister package, and other minority community employees will be given full salaries “who have resumed their duties in Kashmir”.
Unhappy with the L-G administration’s announcement, Pandit employees continued to protest in Jammu till Thursday. They were demanding release of salaries of all Kashmiri Pandit employees working in Kashmir, irrespective of the fact if they joined the duties or not. The protesters also demanded relocation from Kashmir “till the situation improves in Kashmir”.
“We are disappointed and feel traumatic. We are protesting for around 300 days. We feel depressed. Please release our salaries and safeguard our lives,” Deepika, a Kashmiri Pandit employee, said. The protesting Pandits alleged they are being forced to join the duties in Kashmir amid threat letters issued by militants there.
Meanwhile, there was a reason for Kashmiri Pandits to rejoice as an idol of Goddess Sharda reached Jammu from Karnataka’s Sringeri. The Kashmiri Pandit Sabha will install it at the newly constructed temple of Sharda Mata at Teetwal near the Line of Control in Kupwara on March 22.