By Saqib ur Rehman
‘If our Kashmiri Pandit brethren, some of whom are now residing in Jammu would have been here in Kashmir with us, they would not have been so much loving and caring as our Muslim neighbours are’, said seventy year old Somnath. Somnath and his family lives in village Seer of South Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
As I entered Somnath’s house, I was warmly welcomed by his children and after I introduced myself I was taken to Somnath’s room. The moment I stepped into his room, I noticed two picture portraits– one was of a Muslim shrine and the other that of a Hindu Goddess– hanging on a wall of his room.
Juxtaposing of these two pictures on a wall was enough for me to conclude how much Somnath loved Muslims and the respect he had for other religions. ‘Last year, a Hindu lady in our neighbourhood died and our Muslim brethren helped us in performing her last rites. Everyday my Muslim neighbours come to my house to see me and inquire about my health. I am very happy to have Muslims as my neighbours’, said Somnath.
All this goes onto demonstrate that the violence affected people of Kashmir have set an example of how people from different beliefs must live together. The majority of population in Kashmir valley comprises of Muslims. The people of different religions of Kashmir treat one another as a part of one big family who share joys and also mourn together.
Instances galore corroborate this theme.
‘After the death of my mother in May 2016, my Muslim brethren came to my help, at a time, when I was in deep mourning’, said Pyarilal whose family lives in the largely Muslim dominated village of Nanil, Islamabad.
If one understands and studies deeply the history of Kashmir, one discovers that communal harmony in Kashmir is deep rooted. This is something amazing in a militarized place as Kashmir and in many senses it defies the norm. Communal conflicts have been an overwhelming feature of almost all conflict ridden areas across the globe but Kashmir remains a shining example of communal tolerance.
‘Our Muslim and Pandit brethren have always respected and helped us. May this brotherhood last forever!’ , said Arpit singh, a resident of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
A Hindu temple which is located adjacent to a Mosque in Reshi bazaar mohallah of Islamabad town from centuries together is still intact despite the absence of the Hindus. This is a standing metaphor for Hindu Muslim unity. Muslims take care of this ancient temple.
Manzoor Ahmad, forty five, whose house is just beside the temple says that ‘since my childhood I have seen this temple and this mosque standing side by side and, at present, as no Hindu family resides here, We(Muslims) take every care of this temple and the keys of the main gate of this temple always remain in our possession. Whenever any local Hindu or any pilgrim or any tourist from outside the valley comes here to visit this temple, we unlock the gate for him’.
In Sirnu village of Pulwama, Muhammad Akbar Sofi and Rakesh Kumar, have been living together in a three-storey house. Rakesh is a teacher and his wife Rajni is also a government employee while as Akbar is a baker and his wife is a housewife. ‘We have been living in this three storeyed house for the past twelve years, we share each other’s joy and sorrow and even sometimes share household responsibilities’, said Sofi’s wife Sakeena.
‘After the Pandit exodus, I was living in Jammu with my family. In the meanwhile my daughter, a government employee was posted in Islamabad, Kashmir. She stayed there with my family friend Mohammad Rafiq Wani for four years. She never felt that she was away from her family because he gave her parental love and took great care of her’ said Abhaidev Kumar.
As we all know, Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, where people are demanding freedom from the Indian occupation since the past seventy years. There are, on account of this, many chances here that, in attempts to divert the attention of people from the genuine freedom struggle the people interested in maintaining the status quo, can whip up communal sentiments (especially at a time when the intensity of the freedom struggle was at its zenith in the valley like it was in the year 2016). This can unfortunately result in clashes between different communities living in harmony in the valley.
The cardinal lesson that we must draw and promote is to maintain our ancestral and historical brotherhood that has and continues to hold between different religions of the state and avoid any confrontation.
The Author is a Post graduate in Journalism and mass communication from the Islamic university of Science and Technology, Awantipora. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org