A NEW ERA
The year 1990 was a dark one for the erstwhile state of J & K. Before that year, the amalgamation of different faiths in the Valley was praise worthy, however when the militancy erupted, it was no more the peaceful land that it once was. The exodus of the Kashmiri Pundits from Kashmir was the worst human migration in the Indian history since the Partition in 1947. Pakistani elements had successfully brainwashed the local Muslim population of J & K, which was once ruled by a Hindu ruler peacefully.
As one takes a boat ride on the Jhelum River in Srinagar, the temples with their flaying walls of once glorious facades cannot be missed. Post the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits, a plethora of temples were closed and still remain so. One of such temples was the Shital Nath Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shiva, in Kralakhud area of Downtown Srinagar. However, on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami, the temple was reopened after 31 years and the puja ceremony was performed. Upendra Handoo, a priest recalled how the ceremony used to be held every year on Basant Panchami, where hundreds of people congregated before the militancy began. Basant Panchami is an important day for the Kashmiri Pundits, as on that day the community begins the education of their children.
Along with Kashmiri Pundits, the Muslims in the nearby area too extended support and a helping hand in the reopening of the temple. According to Ravinder Razdan, who was one of the organizers of the opening ceremony, ‘Muslim brothers and sisters brought puja items.’ While one may see this as a small event, but this is a marker of the new era that the Valley has been ushered in post the abrogation of Article 370. The dramatic events of the 90s are being forgotten and Kashmir is on its way to development and harmony.