Shivratri Unites Kashmiri Hindus, Muslims

Shivratri Unites Kashmiri Hindus, Muslims

20 February 2012
Deccan Herald


Srinagar: As bells tolled in the temples of Lord Shiva on 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 one of the biggest festivals of the year. Some, Hindus, 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 freezing temperature. 'I could not believe my eyes that it was Arshad, my childhood friend, who came to meet me on this big day of ours,' said Kuldeep Raina. 'Trust me, I am the happiest person today. It seems nothing has changed between us in all these years,' Kuldeep added. Both Arshad Hussain and Kuldeep belong to Akoor village in Anantnag district of south Kashmir. Due to militancy Kuldeep had to leave for a camp in Jagti years ago. I knew Kuldeep was living here and I thought there could be no better day than this festival when I should visit my friend, said Arshad. 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. But all that changed after community members migrated to Jammu and other parts of the country. More than 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits had come out of the valley. 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 package programme. Community members surmised that the measure may have gone a long way to bring down the walls of mistrust and encourage the two communities to reverse the clock to their good old days when they shared each other's joys and sorrows.