Kashmir Indepth
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How Muslims, Pandits participate in each other’s joy, sorrow

Ishtiyaq Ahmad

Srinagar Oct 20 (KINS): Surrounded by mighty Chinar trees, several people have been taking care of a cremation ground for Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area. Among them two are Muslims.

“This cremation ground is for both Hindus and Sikhs. Every month two to three people are cremated here. Both Muslims and non-Muslims participate in last rites for whoever is cremated here,” one of the caretakers, said.

“A priest is brought from a temple in Lal Chowk and performs the rituals for the deceased,” he told news agency KINS

Spread over several kanals of land, the cremation ground locally known as Aawran or Shamshan Bhoomi is being looked after by Shri Sananthan Dharam Pratap Sabha.

Before 1990, hundreds of Pandits and Sikhs were being cremated there. However as majority of Kashmiri Pandits have left the valley, cremation of around 30 people is being done there annually.

Ghulam Mohammad, a footpath vendor, near the cremation ground, said Kashmiri Muslims have always expressed their love and respect for Pandits.

“Kashmir Muslims always perform the last rites whenever any Pandit dies here. This gesture is a symbol of the real spirit of Kashmiriyat. Pandits in our neighborhood have been living here for decades. The two communities have lived in harmony even during the most testing times,” he said.

He recalls happier and peaceful times in the past when Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits would grow up together and share each other’s joys and sorrows. “We always want Kashmiri Pandit brethren to return back to the valley,” he added.

There have been occasions such as festivals, weddings and last rites, where Kashmir Muslims and Pandits have jointly participated despite what the Valley has gone through for last over three decades

Upholding the age-old communal harmony, Muslims have been helped to perform last rites of Pandits, who died over the years.

Few years before, when a Pandit woman of Habba Kadal breathed her last, it was locals who made arrangements for her last rites. The last rites of the deceased were held at the cremation ground Batamaloo.

Spreading a message of unity and brotherhood , the residents of Nawakadal had performed the last rites of a Kashmiri Pandit woman, who belonged to a lone family of the minority community.

“The Muslims participated in the funeral procession and accompanied the Pandit family to the cremation ground at Batamaloo. After performing the rites, the locals spent the day with the bereaved relatives,” said a local Bashir Ahmad. (KINS)

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