Pandits Approach Separatists To Save Temples
18 December 2007
Srinagar: Kashmiri pandits are struggling to save their temples and shrines from being sold by unscrupulous non-Kashmiri caretaker priests who have off late become the “dealers of temple properties”. After failing to get help from the government, the Kashmiri pandits have now knocked at the doors of hard-line and moderate Hurriyat leaders, seeking their help in stemming the rot and preventing the non-locals from selling shrines and temple property. “Some non-local priests have come to Kashmir to take control of the temples. They are clandestinely selling or transferring temple properties i.e. land, buildings, shops and idols. Some members of the majority community have also been roped in by these people to achieve the purpose,” said Sanjay Kumar Tickoo, president, Kashmiri Pandit Sangrash Samiti (KPSS), an apex body of Kashmiri pandits who did not migrate from valley in 1990. What has irked the pandits is the lackadaisical attitude of the government in stemming the rot. “We brought this to the notice of all the concerned government officers requesting them to ban the illegal sale of temple property. But every one seems to have turned a blind eye in this regard,” said Sanjay. “The police have arrested one of the mahants for illegal sale of temple property. We do not know what action was taken,” he added. Official figures reveal that around 34,878 Kashmiri pandit families comprising 1,34,755 people are registered as migrants in Jammu. Around 2,684 Kashmir pandit families are living in different states as migrants. Nearly 4,000 Kashmiri pandits did not migrate and are still living in Kashmir. According to KPSS figures, property worth Rs250 crore has either been sold or transferred by these unscrupulous elements in Kashmir. “Around 565 temples were burnt since the pandits migrated from Kashmir. Most of the temples, shrines and dharmashals were brunt post Babri masjid demolition in 1992. Taking advantage of the migration, non-locals have sold off or transferred the property,” said Sanjay. KPSS has now issued an appeal to Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chief Mohommad Yasin Malik and Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Ahmad Shah to rise to the occasion and help them in saving their religious places from being looted. “We appeal to all separatist leaders and members of the majority community to do their bit to prevent this,” said Sanjay. Meanwhile, moderate Hurriyat Conference is meeting shortly to discuss the issue. “We will be apprising our chairman and will evolve a consensus on this issue. We will formulate a proper plan soon,” said Syed Saleem Geelani, Hurriyat’s interlocutor for Kashmiri Pandits.