Jammu: Jogi langar (canteen where food is served for sadhus) in Rainawari area of Srinagar, the locality in the heart of old city that was once home to a high number of Kashmiri pandits, is again reverberating with the sound of temple bells after 27 long years.
The centuries old Vetaal Bero temple in the highly-sensitive area that had been shut after most pandits were forced to migrate to Jammu and other parts of the country due to militancy in 1990, was reopened on Thursday.
“After the migration of Kashmiri pandits, the area of the temple was illegally sold by Dharmatma Trust to a local property dealer. When residents in the area came to know about it, they informed Kashmiri pandits of the locality in Jammu, who responded with swift legal action and the area was recovered from the property dealer,” Rajindra, who resides near the locality, said.
Another Kashmiri pandit Utpal Koul, who used to reside next to the temple, said, “This temple is centuries old, even I remember during early nineties special langar used to be organised here for Amarnath pilgrims. Today is the birth anniversary of Lord Bero and we came to celebrate this festival here from different areas of the country and even some families have come from US for this occasion.”
Koul suggested that those staying close to the temple could take care of it. Kashmiri pandits, who visited the temple, were greeted by the locals and together they cleaned its premises before offering prayers. It was an emotional moment for most as they reunited with their old neighbours.
Habib Ulla, a local, was asked if those who returned will be welcomed back, and he said, “I pray to Allah that these old friends once again return to their homes.”
Some of the Kashmiri pandit families, who did not migrate during militancy, have formed a group to look after temples in Kashmir. They have formed an organisation by the name of KPSS.
According to KPSS (Kashmiri Pundit Sangarish Samiti), there were 583 temples in Kashmir before militancy set in. Of these, 532, including the 52 which disappeared without a trace, were damaged in different militancy-related incidents.
“The reopening of temples signifies our existence in the Valley. We want to restore our identity and blunt the tools of some other pundit groups which have unleashed a false propaganda against the Muslims of Kashmir,” Sanjay Tickoo said.
KPSS has decided to approach mosques for help to reopen temples. “We have constituted a three-member panel which will approach mosque managements seeking cooperation,” it stated.