Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today visited the shrine of Mata Kheer Bhawani here to offer personal felicitations to the Kashmiri Pandit devotees who had arrived at the shrine in large numbers to participate in the annual Mela.
Advisor to Chief Minister, Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Legislators, Mr Ishfaq Jabbar and Mr Yasir Reshi and former Minister, Qazi Mohammad Afzal were also present.
The Chief Minister interacted with the devotees, who had arrived in hundreds from within and outside the State for the special occasion, and also inquired about the facilities being provided to them.
Ms Mehbooba urged the devotees present at the shrine to pray for peace and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir so that it once again flourishes as a symbol of traditional harmony and brotherhood, which it used to be before the eruption of turmoil.
The devotees, including women, children and elderly persons, some of them participating in the Mela for the first time since their migration from Kashmir in early 90s, expressed happiness for being amongst their Muslim brethren again. A large number of Muslims also had come from different parts of Kashmir to meet their Pandit brethren.
The Chief Minister hailed the locals, who despite observing Ramadhan fast themselves, were offering and serving eatables including milk and material for Puja to the Kashmiri Pandit brethren.
The Chief Minister also visited the make-shift medical centre setup by the Health Department, to enquire about the girl who had last night suffered minor injuries in a stray stone-pelting incident near Wanpoh on Srinagar-Jammu Highway and was recuperating at the camp.
Referring to the Wanpoh incident, the Chief Minister said it was a stray incident wherein a stone unfortunately hit a passing vehicle carrying the devotees to Kheer Bhawani shrine. “While some 80 vehicles carrying pilgrims had already passed through the area, unfortunately one vehicle crossed over the same time when some miscreants were pelting stones at newly established Police Post at Wanpoh,” she said and added that two devotees had suffered minor injuries in the incident and both of them have now reached the Kheer Bhawani temple to join the festivities.
Strongly condemning the incident, the Chief Minister said that such mindless acts of stone-pelting and other forms of violence only bring miseries to the people and bad name to Kashmir, with tourism sector being the first casualty. “While most of the young boys and girls from Kashmir including the wards of Kashmiri Pandits are toiling in various states amidst extreme hot weather conditions to make their careers, unfortunately certain vested interests in Kashmir are hell bent on ruining the lives and careers of young boys, especially from underprivileged sections of the society, by misusing them as stone-pelters,” she said and urged such quarters to desist from exploiting these poor boys for furthering their vested political interests. “If these quarters are the well-wishers of Kashmiris, they must instead help these disadvantaged youth in their studies and in making their careers as they are doing for their own children,” she said.
Regarding return of Kashmiri Pandits, Ms Mehbooba said the Government is making various efforts to ensure dignified return of the migrants to Kashmir. “As a part of this programme, the Government has decided to temporarily settle the returning Kashmiri Pandits in mixed transit accommodation till the situation is feasible for them to go back to their native places,” she said and added that while the leaders and cadres of most of the mainstream parties and even separatist groups have migrated from their native places because of the security reasons, “how can we force the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their places.”
“We will provide them the alternate transit accommodation, and as and when they feel like going back and permanently settling at their native places, they should go of their own choice and not by force,” she maintained.
Ms Mehbooba said the occasions like Mela Kheer Bhawani offer a great opportunity to bring the Kashmiri Muslims and migrant Pandits together to build new bonds of mutual trust and brotherhood, which would in the long run facilitate the return and the rehabilitation of the migrants back in Kashmir.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani, Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganaie, SSP Ganderbal and other officers of the civil and police administration were present on the occasion.
The government had operated special transport services to bring the migrant Pandits from Jammu to Tulmulla. A number of organizations, including local Muslims, had set up free langars for the devotees.