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Kashmir Government eyeing Hindu temple and shrines

February 24, 2014

Magha Krushna Dashami, Kaliyug Varsha 5115

The Hindus constitute a minority community in J&K. As for Kashmir, it has already become a one-community region for all practical purposes. Almost all the Kashmiri Hindus migrated out of the Valley in early 1990 to escape their persecution at the hands of fanatics and separatists. They could have stayed in Kashmir had they joined the separatist movement. But they thought otherwise to protect their religion and culture and vacated the hostile Valley leaving behind their beautiful houses, business establishments, jobs, orchards and agricultural fields. The number of Kashmiri Hindu families which continue to hold their ground in the Valley should not be more than 200. According to one estimate, the number of such families is 160. It is difficult to say if these families would stay put in the Valley for some more years as the prevailing communal situation there is quite frightening. And that the Kashmiri Hindus, those who migrated, are unwilling to go back to their original home could be seen from the fact that not a single Hindu migrant family has returned to the Valley under the much-talked about Prime Minister’s return and rehabilitation policy. This should indicate the nature of prevailing communal situation in the Valley.

It is the Jammu province which is the abode of bulk of Hindu population, including the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus. The proportion of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in Jammu province is approximately 68:28:4. As far as the proportion of Hindu and non-Hindu population in the State is concerned, it is nearly 42:58, but the former has little or no say in the governance of the State. Even in Jammu province, the entire population barring a few close to the Kashmiri ruling elite is unhappy with the existing system for obvious reasons, most important being the domination of the Kashmiri ruling elite on every institution and the unqualified support it has been getting from New Delhi since October 1947, when the State acceded to India and political power was transferred from Jammu to Kashmir as a result of the conspiracy hatched by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah of  Kashmir-based National Conference.

Fact of the matter is that the Kashmiri ruling elite considers the people of Jammu province nothing more than its subjects and the provinces of Jammu and Ladakh as its colonies. It’s no wonder then that the neglected, frustrated, educated and skilled youth from Jammu are migrating to find jobs outside the State. The most striking aspect of the whole situation is that the rich among the people of Jammu province are also encouraging their sons and daughters to settle outside the State and are also purchasing flats and plots in places like Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune and Bangalore. Jammu province witnessed several mass agitations against the separatist Kashmiri leadership to defend and promote the national cause. It’s regrettable that their sacrifices and contributions have gone down the drain because of fake secular outfits like Congress. It would not be out of place to mention here that in 2008 a Delhi-based leading commentator had asked the nation to follow Jammu. “To save the nation, follow Jammu,” he said, but New Delhi has been acting otherwise enabling the Kashmiri ruling elite to create in Jammu province a Kashmir-like situation.

The prevailing situation in the State is alarming by all standards. In fact, it has deteriorated to the extent that nasty moves are afoot to destroy the rich heritage of Jammu Dogras in Kashmir and to create conditions which help the communal Government in the State to establish control over the symbols of Hindu civilisation and culture in the Valley. The Hindus constitute a minority community in the State and most of them are the Sanatan Dharma followers. They have their own traditions and cultural ethos. But the authorities in the State and certain disgruntled elements in the Kashmiri Hindu community are flirting with each other and hatching a conspiracy to divide the Hindu society and establish official control over the world famous Hindu temples and shrines constructed by the Dogra rulers in the Valley after March 1846.

It is pertinent to mention here that when Maharaja Gulab Singh came in the scene in Kashmir in 1846, there were no temples built in the Valley for centuries, as the Sultans of Kashmir practised ruthlessly an intolerant religious policy. The religious places of Hindus were heavily damaged, particularly during the time of Sultan Sikandar (1389-1413). Sultan Sikandar was also known as a radical. During his regime, most of the Hindu families migrated out of Kashmir.

During this period, the ancient places of worship and pilgrimage including world famous temples of Shankracharya, Khir Bhawani, Gupt Ganga, Jawala Ji Khrew were in a bad shape and it was feared that these ancient symbols of the people of Kashmir might disappear. Sections of people of Kashmir had started offering prayers within their four walls. They could hardly celebrate their religious functions in public places. Instead, they used to offer prayers on occasions of important religious festivals in make-shift temples.

The Dogras resurrected those ancient places and restored them to their pristine glory. They also built more temples. Maharaja Gulab Singh began this tradition by building a grand and magnificent Shri Raghunath Ji temple at Maisuma and the Shiv Ji temple at Gupt Ganga, Srinagar. He built several temples across the State.

Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the successor of Maharaja Gulab Singh, also built many temples and established ‘Sedavrats’ at different places in the State including Kashmir. He established ‘Sedavrats’ and Dharamsalas outside J&K at places of pilgrimage such as Tapoban, Haridwar, Prayag, Gaya, Badrinarain and Kashi for comfortable stay of pilgrims there. He built huge “Haveli” in Kashi where the people of J&K were provided boarding and lodging free of cost. He also did set up pathshalas, libraries with Sanskrit works and rare manuscripts on the Hindu religion, tradition and philosophy.

For Kashmir, Dogra Maharajas built a number of temples and shrines all along Vitasta (Jhelum) at Martand, Pahalgam, Pampore, Bijbehara, Ganderbal and one each at the seven Kashmir bridges over the Jhelum river as well as in Pattan, Baramulla, Sumbal, Buniyar, Muzaffarabad, Chakoti and at several other places in Kashmir region and Jammu province. Special attention was paid to temples such as Khir Bhawani, Gupt Ganga, Shankra Acharya in Srinagar, Jawala Ji temple in Kherw, Shri Gadadhari Ji, Shri Raghynath Ji, Shri Sharika, Ashta Bhairon and Shri Shardha Ji.

All these are well-known, well-managed temples and shrines in Kashmir. Pilgrims from across the country and abroad hold these temples and shrines in high esteem and visit these holy places to offer prayers. Various trusts and Hindu religious organisations have been managing and conserving these heritage sites weathering hostile environment. These trusts and organisations deserve appreciation as they did not abandon these temples and shrines after 1989, when the separatist and communal movement gripped the Valley.

These are some of the temples and shrines which the authorities and a handful of people with vested interests in the Kashmiri Hindu community wish to bring under the purview of the controversial and divisive Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places (Management and Regulations) Bill, 2009. The Bill is under the consideration of the Select Committee which was constituted by the State Government sometime back. Majority of members of the Select Committee belong to the majority community and are obviously not in a position to appreciate the distinct religious and cultural sensitivities of the Hindus. The Select Committee can take a final decision on the Bill anytime now.

India is a democratic country and J&K is its integral part. Hence, it is fundamental duty of J&K Government to maintain the democratic and secular character of the State and not interfere in the religious affairs of the people. The Bill, if enacted into an Act in its original form, will not only empower the State Government to establish its control over the religious places of the minority community in Kashmir Valley but would also make distinctions within Hindus.

In the Chapter 1 of the Bill which deals with the definitions of Act, Appellate Authority, Board, Chadawa (offerings), Committee, Endowment, Government, Kashmiri Hindu, you will find that an attempt is being made to divide the Hindu community. It defines the Kashmiri Hindu as a person professing Hindu religion (excluding Sikhs born in Kashmir) whether presently residing in the said province or at any other place in India. The Bill also includes those persons who are born in the families of such persons and are residing outside Kashmir. There is no problem with it. But the problem is that it doesn’t recognise the fact that the temples of Kashmiri Hindus are not exclusively meant for them as most of them have already vacated the Valley. No Kashmiri Hindu temple or shrine could be meant exclusively for only a part of the community. Temples and shrines are meant for all Hindus of India and outside. Hence, expressions such as “Kashmiri Hindu and Kashmiri Hindu Shrines” clearly undermine the very purpose and objective of the controversial Bill. It is clear that while drafting the Bill, Hindu religious practices, traditions and cultural sensitivities were not recognised and appreciated, thus creating a class within a class is not consistent with the Indian constitutional framework. It is only natural that the aggrieved minority community is demanding a review of the Bill. It would be an unpardonable sin if an attempt is made to break it into Kashmiri Hindu, Punjabi Hindu, Dogra Hindu through a piece of legislation. Such an attempt can lead to dangerous consequences.

It is a sponsored conspiracy to destroy the footprints of Dogras in the Valley. It is an attempt at obliterating the identity of the Hindus, particularly the Sanatani Hindus and causing a fatal blow to their cultural traditions and ethos. The argument of the Government that the Bill seeks to protect the said shrines and temples is false and the real intent of the communal Government is to encroach these temples, shrines and properties attached to them. The aggrieved minority community has been warning that any move to interfere with the religious affairs of the Hindus would provoke strong protests in Jammu and other places. We hope that good sense would finally prevail and the State Government would desist from taking over these shrines and temples which constitute a precious part of the Dogras’ cultural heritage in Kashmir Valley.

Source: Niti Central

 

 

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