SHOPIAN: Two Shopian villages are shining examples of brotherhood and communal harmony, where villagers from the Pandit and Muslim community greet each other with affection, present each other with gifts on festivals and marriage ceremonies, give shoulder to coffins and biers at funerals, and live side by side in blessed peace.
Pargochi and Krawoora villages have had Pandit numberdars for years. Jagan Nath Pandith, age 70, a resident of Pargochi, heads this small village of 100 households. His nephew Veer Ji is the numberdar of Krawoora village nearby.
“I never felt that they were giving wrong decisions regarding village concerns or between families,” Javid Ahmad, a Pargochi resident, said. He mentioned that Jagan Nath often gives examples from the Hadith and the Quran while settling issues among Muslims.
Veer Ji heads Krawoora village as numberdar but lives in Pargochi after the death of his father, Brij Nath Koal. Brij Nath is still an example in the village for being a humorous man. “He used to dance at marriages of Muslims, particularly girls’ marriages. He was a humorous person who never brought religion into village matters, never favouring anyone. He always settled issues with moral fibre,” reminisced Pargochi resident Farooq Ahmad.
Locals from Pargochi village said they have seen Veer Ji in nearby villages during militant funerals and at those for civilians killed by government forces.
Bashir Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Krawoora, said that Muslims in his village have no issue in having a Pandit as their numberdar because, according to them, they feel no difference with their Pandit brothers. “Before Veer Ji, his father was our village numberdar. He was so good that he continues to be an example to us for his kind and humorous attitude,” Bhat said.
Trapadpora village is another solid example of communal harmony, where three Pandit families have continued to live for years even while others left the Valley due to security circumstances. People here greet, help and share common matters of daily life in a democratic society. A local man, Dileep Kumar, is considered the village’s tech expert, consulted and trusted without question in the purchase of all electronic appliances. “We feel secure consulting Dileep Kumar, he knows these things better than us,” said resident Fayaz Ahmad.
As Dileep Kumar told Kashmir Reader, “We live here with love and affection for our Muslim brothers. And it is because of those Muslims, with their support and love, that we still live here. We don’t feel any difference between our Pandit families and our Muslim neighbours,” he said.
Another Pandit from Trapadpora village, Maharaj Krishan, who is a government school teacher by profession, is considered the local pious person. Villagers often come to him and feel better taking his advice regarding family matters. “He is a down-to-earth man. He always helped me during my bad times and always suggested to me the thing which was better for me as well as my family,” Muhammad Yasin, another villager, said.
There are no aspects of life in these villages where Pandits are not part of village matters, be they marriages, births or deaths. Pandits here freely participate in Muslim religious gatherings; a Pargochi resident said his Pandit brethren would often come to Muslim religious gatherings and listen to the scholars’ discourse. Trapadpora’s Dileep Kumar recounted how when his mother died recently, it was the village Muslims who prepared the wood for her cremation and completed other necessary things. “They (the Pandits) gave shoulder to the coffin when any Muslim dies in the village; they visit his home and offer comfort, the same as Muslims do,” said a Pargochi villager.
Whenever any Muslim has a function at his home, he invites his Pandit neighbours as a matter of course. “Recently, when one of my Muslim neighbours got his son married, he first invited us. He offered us wazwan and every comfort,” Veer Ji shared. Villagers from Pargochi told Kashmir Reader that at the weddings of both Veer Ji and his sister, Veer Ji invited the whole village and offered them traditional wazwan, for preparing which he hired Muslim cooks.
The exchange of various festive foods always marks both communities’ religious celebrations. The closest Muslim neighbours often offer chicken and other varieties to their Pandit neighbours on the eve of Eid, and Pandits bring them their delicacies as well on Diwali and Holi festivals. “This tradition is not new here,” observes Veer Ji. “We have been living with love and brotherhood for many years.”