It’s been almost 30 years since 98% of Kashmiri Pandits were wiped out from their homeland, Kashmir valley. The war in the valley hasn’t ceased since then and the hope of going back to their home has remained just that — a hope.
However, on a positive note, there is Manzgam, a little village 100 kilometers from Srinagar, which gives hope to the Pandits.
Despite the separatist insurgency in 1990s, the area has remained peaceful, housing both the communities till date. The residents of the village give credit for the communal harmony to the 600-year-old Muslim and Hindu shrines in Mazgam.
There is an age-old Vedic temple built for Hindu deity Mata Kheerbhawani
along with a 15th century Muslim shrine built after the Sufi saint Baba Qiyaam-ud-Din. His glorious teachings have been religiously followed by all Kashmiris — Pandits and Muslims both.
Ever year, on the annual fair of Kheerbhawani, Muslims collectively make kheer to serve at the temple to the Hindus. The Hindus too attend the annual veneration of the saint at the shrine.
“This village is the best example of communal harmony…though Muslims are in majority, we never let our Pandit brothers feel that,” activist and lawyer Arshad Baba, who lives in the village, told IANS. “This is a decades-old divine bond no one can break.”
In fact, the bond is so strong that neither community doubts the intention of the other. Hindu families send their children to Islamic school unperturbed. Apart from other subjects, the children learn peaceful Islamic teachings here.
So, why did the Hindu families choose to stay back in valley despite the violence which followed the military rise in the 90s?
It’s because their Muslim neighbors never let them go. They protected them all through it. The residents claim to have made human chains around Pandits’ homes during the attacks.
“Where in the world do you see people from another community putting their lives at risk to save others?” says Pradeep Kumar, a 78-year-old retired government employee who stayed back in the 90s with more than a dozen families in Mazgam.
At a point when Kashmir’s future remains unpredictable, the sentiments echoed from this little village of Kashmir needs to be heard.
In a land where the animosity between two communities, who once shared their delights in celebrations and harmony, ignites the fire in an entire nation, such values are needed to be spread. As for other Kashmiri Pandits, these Muslims humbly request them to return back to their homeland.
“We have time and again requested those who migrated from this land of love to come back… this land belongs to both of us. During festivities at the temple, some Hindus choose to stay with us over the temple premises. But we would like them to be live here for once and all,” says Abdul Rashid Laway, a village body member.