Mehbooba, who visited the shrine, used this occasion to reach out to the pandits.
Two women devotees were injured in a stray stone-pelting incident even as thousands of Kashmiri Pandits thronged the shrine of Mata Kheer Bhawani to participate in the annual mela at Tulmula village in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
Police said unidentified miscreants were pelting stones on a new police post when a bus carrying pilgrims to Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine was passing by at Wanpoh village in Kulgam district of south Kashmir on Friday evening.
“A stone hit the window of the bus resulting in minor injuries to Mansi Koul and Henna Thosso of Jammu,” said Mohammad Irshad Khan, senior superintendent of police, Kulgam.
The injured were shifted to hospital and were discharged after treatment. “Condition of both the injured persons is stable and presently they are at Kheer Bhawani temple,” he said
Strongly condemning the incident, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti 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 the newly-established police post at Wanpoh,” she said.
Mehbooba, however, noted that such mindless acts of stone-pelting and other forms of violence only bring miseries to the people and a bad name to Kashmir, with the tourism sector being the first casualty.
“Unfortunately, certain vested interests in Kashmir are hell bent on ruining the lives and careers of young boys, especially those from underprivileged sections of the society, by misusing them as stone-pelters,” she said.
Stone-pelting incident, notwithstanding, thousands of Pandits thronged the Mela Kheer Bhawani to join the festivities. “More than 12,000 pilgrims visited the shrine on Sunday. The attendance was 50 per cent more than last year,” said Tariq Ahmad Ganaie, district development commissioner, Ganderbal.
Camaraderie reigned supreme as Muslims in large numbers welcomed their Pandit brethren. Muslims had set up stalls selling puja material to Pandits who had come from far flung areas. From diyas (earthen lamp), to flowers to milk, Muslims had kept everything available for the pandits to ensure that pandits could perform puja without any hassles.
Mehbooba, who visited the shrine, used this occasion to reach out to the pandits reassuring them that her government was 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
Mehbooba remarked that how could they force the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their places when 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.
“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.