Kashmir after 17 years
the way ahead
Piyaray Lal Raina
The first thought that comes to my mind before writing
my impressions of visiting Kashmir after 17 years of exile is to thank my Isht Devi Ragnya Bhagwati for giving me a chance to pray at Her feet
after such a long time. I used to go there almost on every Shukla
Ashtami come summer or winter .and kept on praying to Her every day
of my exile with the hope
that before my final exit I will get a chance to pray at
Khirbhawani Temple once again.
I visited Kashmir in the last week of May 2007 along with
my wife, my niece and her son who left Kashmir at the age of 7 years. We stayed
at a hotel in Rajbagh, Srinagar near the place which was my home once.
My primary desire to visit Kashmir was to go on a pilgrimage, but one
cannot ignore the feelings that you get after revisiting the place after 17
years, which was my home for 55 years and before that home of several
generations of my ancestors. My object of writing this article is to apprise the
readers particularly my community members about my impressions of the place and
the people with a view about the possibility of our return to Kashmir
Temples and Ashrams
Since I was on a pilgrimage, I will first of all write
about the state of religious places which we visited:
1) Khir Bhawani.
During good old days I always thought of getting rid ugly
structures around the shrine which was occupied by shopkeepers. Well that
has been done now. Very nicely planned structures have been raised or are in the
progress of construction. Besides about 40 dharmsala rooms, well planned shops,
two large hawan shallas to accommodate around 200 persons at a time, have been
built with excellent ventilation. Within the paved compound several shelters
have been made around the shrine for yatris.
around the chinar trees that grace the shrine are being redone. On the whole the
place looks good It seems Ragnya Devi
has taken the charge of rebuilding the shrine in Her own hands.
It was Ashtami on the day of our visit. About 100 KPs were
there which included some locals and a few who like us had come from outside.
The colour of spring water was a pleasing shade of green and blue.
Three priests were among outsiders who had come from Jammu. They had come
to make some quick bucks from the devotees without performing pooja the way it
should be done. They were competing in raising the voices without proper
coordination while carrying on recitations. A local old Muslim was selling milk,
ratandeeps and vena.
I saw him moving freely within the
premises of shrine to collect used ratandeeps
A non Kashmiri Hindu Halwaii
was selling luchas and serving kahwa
A contingent of CRP
persons is posted inside the shrine and at the outer gate.
They prepare khir
everyday from their own
money or donations from yatris and
serve it as prashad to all . A
telephone booth ( without ISD ) is run
by a Muslim boy within the premises
of shrine near the gate entrance . A
number of tourist visit the place daily.
Hari Parbhat is no longer
a calm and clean place where we used to go for a sacred
walk for a
parikrama ( going
round about 4 kms) A whole new city with
roads has come up inside boundary
wall ( called Kalai)
We had several shrines around this hillock where we used to
pray while making a parikrama. Now
only two sites are visible: Ganesh Temple and Sharika Temple. (Aka Chkreswar)
The old structure at
Ganesh Temple has been reconstructed with nice wooden ceiling and a side hall
in first floor by few dedicated community members It was being painted. Lord Ganesh has not received a new coat
of sindur for years. I was told a hawan
will be performed here on Ganesh
Chaturdashi falling in July and a new coat of sindur will be applied soon.
All the same we could see
several syambhu ( self
revealed ) Ganeshas all over the rock
.We applied little paint to one
syambhu Ganesha and carried out
full traditional pooja with
all recitations for two hours . The temple looks like a chowkidars hut adjacent
to the massive stone gate at the stairs leading to Mokdum Sahibs shrine up on
the hillock .It is hidden behind the tall 3 storey house in front of temple. The
lane in front of temple has been occupied by Muslim neighbour.
It is well kept. The
shilla which is the object of worship
has been smeared with fresh sindur. A
contingent of CRP personal is guarding the shrine .There is no trace of Devi
Aangan . Muslim houses have come up right upto the stair case leading to the
Ram Kouln Mandr
The temple still stands there but it been completely
vandalized and dharmshallae adjacent to it have been burnt down.
It has the same grandeur as it had 17 years back. Security
is very tight. We were not allowed to carry cameras or mobile phones. A long
queue of visitors was waiting for dharshan of Lord Shiva
A few dedicated members of community have not only
preserved it but made several additions to the structures around it. Security is
tight from a Km away No autos are allowed within one Km of temple site.
The temple is well kept.
As usual it is favourite destination of sadhus and pilgrims. A new four
story dharamsalla is nearing
completion. A number of Hindu tabas in
the neighbourhood attract tourists for lunch/ dinner.
We could get time to visit Ishber Ashram near Nishat and
Ramakrishna Ashram near Shali
store. Both the Ashrams are well kept with CRP personal posted there.
Ramakrishna Ashram has added a new guest house for its devotees and a large hall
for serving food on special occasions
Pooja of Bhairwa at Ishber
and Shiv linga
at RK mission gave us great satisfaction .. A few days back Shri Shri Ravi
Shanker Ji prayed at Ishber Ashram
when he was on a brief visit to Kashmir.
As a result of huge inflow of funds from govt.and non govt.
sources Kashmir looks different now .Right from airport one can see the change.
Airport is a modern one which can handle about 20 incoming and outgoing flights
with peak traffic flow of about 20000 passengers .Srinagar city has
doubled in area
with constructions every where . Railway line from Qazigund to Baramulla
is nearing completion. Additional bridges have been built on river Jehlum . To
get an idea of development works there were just two cement factories in 1990
producing hardly 600 tons of cement per day. At present there are seven large
and small cement factories producing about 7000 tons of cement per day and
another four large scale factories are under construction which will add about
6000 tons per day. There are hardly any power cuts. All the power from Dulhasti
power project of Kistwar which was commissioned recently has been diverted to
Kashmir as there are no transmission lines for transfer of power to other parts
of India .Many new English medium schools have come up including DPS.
The sad part of story is that Srinagar city is
heavily fortified , growth of city is very erratic with no
planned development, roads are narrow even in Rajbagh where land prices
range plus one crore per kanal of land, Dal Lake has shrunk
in size resulting in overcrowding of houseboats, even River Jehlum has
been reduced to a stream. The standing walls of burnt down buildings is a
reminder of the faded glory of City.
Life in Kashmir
Month of May when we visited Kashmir is usually full of
excitement with lot of tourists from India, which involves people of all walks
of life to focus on doing good business. Thus everybody seemed to be praying to
militants to hold guns for some time. While Muslims and Sikhs are fully
enshrined in Kashmir, the few KPs (less than 5000) look like lost in wilderness.
The prosperity of people is very visible from the houses they live, the number
of cars they own, the dress they wear and the food they eat at restaurants.
Our Prospects of
returning to Kashmir
Under international laws, we as aborigines of Kashmir, have
a right to settlement there. No solution to Kashmir problem is possible without
our right to settlement. Govt of India, State Govt and even the Muslims of
Kashmir are aware of it. That is why we are offered several packages which suit
our politicians .At this time of history we have to
evolve our strategy and stick to it
even if it takes another 50 years or more for acceptance
We have to take following factors into consideration to
arrive at our decision:
Living out of Muslim dominance in Kashmir has given us a strength of
exploiting our talents to our capacities which is not possible for us in present
day Kashmir which is now a virtual Islamic state.
All lands where we lived
have been taken over by Muslims/Sikhs. Land prices have gone up considerably.
All businesses , govt. jobs , bank jobs, airport jobs,
school and college teaching
jobs are manned by Muslims
The political atmosphere in Kashmir will not change. Kashmiri Muslims
have divided the valley into pockets of their influence based on religious
sentiments, economic interests, political aspirations etc. To keep their
interests alive they have
evolved one common strategy to keep India on the defensive by exploiting their
nuisance value by raising the
slogans of autonomy,
independence involvement of
KMs in political future of Kashmir and so on .The least they expect is status
quo of article 370 of Indian constitution which they have successfully used to
create a Muslim State.
From the above it is very obvious
that going to Kashmir as the govt. of India /J&K Govt wants us, is out of
question. A division of our territory will provide a better environment to both
Hindus and Muslims to grow side by side as has been demonstrated by Ambani
Brothers after they split the ancestral
property. Our long term strategy should be:
a) Strengthen our roots where we
are living now by enriching our selves economically through business, taking up
jobs which command influence and respect.
b) Demand a package of settlement
in a designated area in Kashmir which
we can call as our homeland. It may be given any name: Panun Kashmir, KP
settlement area, KP reserve area. It should be out of administrative
control of J&K state. I would
suggest an area which starts from
Verinag / Qazigund
and extends up to Pahalgam as our area of resettlement. Large parts of
this area are still open which
provide a scope for proper planning of a modern city. Srinagar is only
one hour journey from Qazigund railway station.
c) To achieves our long term goal
we should involve all sections of society in it. If we could have a credible
Think Tank to guide our movement that would be excellent.