Just 25 kms from Srinagar, and away from scenes of stone pelting, cheeks with traces of a stream, and all the dirty politics, Kashmiris came together yesterday for a cause that will melt many hearts. Their placards were held high this time too, but weren’t supported by chants of separation. This time, they carried a warm message of unity.

In Bandipore’s Sumbal town, an ancient Shiv temple hasn’t had any devotees, since mass murders and severe militancy caused Kashmiri Pandits to flee the state in the early nineties. However, Muslim residents of the town turned up at the temple yesterday to celebrate Mahashivratri, what is considered as the biggest festival on a Kashmiri Pandit’s calendar. And they didn’t just turn up. Doing their best to keep the tradition alive, a local resident, Imtiaz Ahmed, along with many others, scrubbed the floor clean, poured water on the ‘Shivling’, and distributed sweets and fruits in the neighborhood. Mind you, the turn up wasn’t backed by any political party or had any influence acting upon it. This was a proactive gesture by the commoners who wanted their voices to be heard.

There were hundreds of them standing with placards at the Temple’s main gate, asking their Pandit neighbors to return home. Mr Ahmad said they did their best to keep the tradition alive, and intact. “That is why we entered the temple, cleaned it… (We did) whatever we could do since we are Muslims, not Pandits. In our humble way we performed puja here,” he added. People also distributed walnuts, continuing with the tradition of the Pandits on Shivratri. Another resident Manzoor Ahmad added: “They are part of our body and soul which has been snatched and separated from us. Today we are sending a message to them. Please return, we are with you.”

Source and Images: NDTV