Pak allows Kashmiri Pundits to visit their shrine near LoC
31 October 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Islamabad: Pakistan is ready to allow displaced Kashmiri Pundits to conduct a damage assessment of the world famous Sharda Peeth shrine, located in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), in the aftermath of October 8s earthquake, a Pakistani newspaper said today. 'If they are Kashmiris, they can easily come over through one of the crossing points at the Line of Control (LoC) that we identified and agreed upon on Sunday,' the Foreign office spokesperson told the the News. However, there can be no changes on the specific five points even though the Pundits have asked for a fresh approach. A recent Indian visitor to the Sharda Peeth shrine had high praise for the Pakistan army, which is currently based in the shrine and taking great care of it. Status of the shrine after the October 8 tremor is unknown. On Sunday Sanjeevani Sharda Kendra (SSK) president RL Bhat, speaking from Jammu and Kashmir said, 'in the wake of opening of five border meeting points on the LoC on November 7, a delegation of Kashmir Pundits should be allowed to visit the Sharda Peeth in Muzaffarabads Neelam Valley to assess the damage to the shrine due to the recent quake.' He said, 'the ignorance about current ground situation in the wake of the temblor has made the KPs across the globe apprehensive of the fate of the shrine. We are perturbed over the silence of the Governments on both sides about the status of the shrine.' 'If the shrine was damaged, we urge that the Archaeological Survey of India be involved in necessary repair and restoration work,' Mr Bhat said. 'As the shrine is close to the Uri sector, we also request the Government to open a route to the shrine from Bore Keran village in Kupwara to facilitate the visit and the restoration work,' B L Koul, a scholar, said. The Sharda temple, according to some experts, is the most famous and sacred of all Kashmiri pilgrimage centres. It is located in the Neelam Valley. According to an Indian visitor the Sharda temple is inside Pakistan armys barracks and permission had to be obtained to visit it. The visitor said, 'apparently, the Pakistan army had moved there a long time ago, taking over the temple complex and the surrounding area for their barracks. The upside of this was that the remains of the temple were being maintained and protected by the army. Anyway, we got permission to see the temple but were not allowed to take photographs due to some law. (I think it was more to do with the current political climate, etc). Anyway, we talked to the Commanding Officer and he granted us permission for photography.' Looking at the pictures, you can see for yourself how well the Pakistan army has maintained the temple, he said.