As thousands of devotees are expected to throng Tulmulla for the annual Mela Kheer Bhawani celebrations on Monday, a group of 252 displaced Kashmir Pandits will be visiting the shrine of Ragnya Devi in Ganderbal district in the form of a yatra with a mission.
Their mission will be to ‘search for the lost homeland’, rekindle bond with Muslims and take a step towards their return. Members of the miniority community will start the yatra from New Delhi on Saturday morning, after converging in the capital city from different parts of the world.
“First of all, we want to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Governor SP Malik to take steps to rehabilitate our people in Kashmir. They (BJP) talk about abrogating Articles 370 and 35-A but they should first bring us back. Therefore, we are staring ‘Zysetha Asthami’ yatra from Delhi tomorrow in search of our homeland. We are a group of 252 pilgrims, including yatris from foreign countries, such as UAE and US,” yatra co-ordinator Satish Mahaldar told Kashmir Post from New Delhi.
He said the response of local Muslims was encouraging and the pilgrimage would pave way for their return. “This year, the yatra is seeing a good increase in the number of yatris. One of the reasons is the encouraging response from the locals in the Valley. The success of any event is not possible without the participation of the local populace,” he stated.
“The local Muslim leaders as well as the intelligentsia have been lending a positive response to this festival of Kashmiri Pandits. This year, leaders like Shah Faesal are showing an enthusiastic response to the yatra. Pandits and Muslim fraternity in the Valley are seeing the yatra as a step towards the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland,” Mahaldar added.
Meanwhile, the Pandits who did not migrate out of the Valley too are demanding that instead of scoring brownie points, politicians should take steps to rehabilitate the non-migrants, besides facilitating return of the migrants.
“A lot of lip service is done but on ground, the government is not doing anything concrete. Yes, displaced Pandits need to be brought back. However, at the same time, the ones that did not migrate out of Kashmir need to be rehabilitated. We too are internally displaced and need to be suitably rehabilitated, our youth do not have jobs and we continue to be neglected,” said Chunni Lal Bhat, president of the Hindu Welfare Society Kashmir (HWSK), a body of non-migrant Pandits.