Jammu: As bells tolled
in the temples of Lord Shiva Monday, what emerged was a heartening
story of healing wounds between Hindus and Muslims - wounds
inflicted by years of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.
For the Hindus, better known as Kashmiri Pandits, Shivratri is the
biggest festival on the calendar. And a scene that played out
repeatedly this year in areas dominated by them was Muslims
embracing and wishing their Hindu friends.
Some were overwhelmed by the gesture of Kashmiri Muslims who
travelled long distances to meet them in their resettlement
township Jagti, on the outskirts of Jammu, in the rain and
"I couldn't believe my eyes that it was Arshad, my childhood
friend, who came to meet me on this big day of ours," said Kuldeep
"Trust me, I am the happiest person today. It seems nothing has
changed between us in all these years," Kuldeep told IANS.
Both Arshad Hussain and Kuldeep belong to village Akoor, near
Mattan in Anantnag district of south Kashmir, some 60 km north of
Srinagar. But due to militancy, Kuldeep had to leave for a camp in
Jagti years ago.
Arshad said: "I knew Kuldeep was living here and I thought there
could be no better day than this festival when I should visit my
For Kashmiri Hindus, nightlong prayers at home are followed by a
visit to the temple on Shivratri. They also host a feast for
friends the next day, known as Salam.
Until militancy broke out in 1989, it was common for Kashmiri
Pandits to host lunches for their Muslim friends and neighbours.
The Muslims used to look forward to delicacies like fish and
But all that changed after community members migrated to Jammu and
other parts of the country.
More than 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits had come out of the valley,
many of whom are still settled in Jammu. The Pandits have since
suffered from a sense of injustice and persecution.
But the anger against militants and their sympathisers whom the
Pandits blame for the forced life in exile - as Kashmiri Pandit
leaders like Ashwani Churngoo call it - seems to have subsided,
going by the sentiment among community members.
For instance, Mushtaq Ahmad waited for a Kashmiri Pandit family
outside Ranishewar temple, housing an icon of Lord Shiva, in the
rain, just to hug his friends and congratulate them.
Mushtaq, who is a government employee, went to the home of his
friend Sushil Kaul in Janipur, but was told by neighbours that the
family had gone to the temple. He headed straight for the shrine.
When Sushil and Mushtaq sighted each other, they couldn't stop
embracing. Tears rolled down their cheeks, retelling the story of
two friends being back together on this "bor doh" or dig day.
Perhaps what made a difference this year was that many Kashmiri
Pandit youths could go back to the valley after being specially
recruited under the Prime Minister's relief and rehabilitation
Community members surmised that the measure may have gone a long
way in helping bring down the walls of mistrust and encouraging
the two communities to reverse the clock to their good old days
when they shared each other's joys and sorrows.
Arshad and Kuldeep would certainly testify to that after a meal
partaken together Monday afternoon.
(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)