SRINAGAR: The J&K government has taken action against an officer in Jammu who offended the Kashmiri Pandit community. The Deputy Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation in Jammu, KK Sidha, issued a notice that Pandits wishing to attend the annual Kheer Bhawani fair in Kashmir will have to register themselves and seek permission, just as Amarnath pilgrims are required to do.
Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation Javaid Mustafa Mir said that the officer neither consulted anyone nor informed him about the order. Mir said that the General Administration Department (GAD) has been asked to attach Sidha and remove him from his current post.
“Mr Sidha has been relieved now and we have written to the GAD for his attachment. There is a proper government process which he did not follow,” Mir told Kashmir Reader. “We have also constituted a team of officers including the under-secretary relief and rehabilitation to investigate what led him to issue such an order. The committee will probe the intentions of the officer behind issuing the controversial notice.”
On May 10, a notice was issued by Sidha that pilgrims wishing to visit Kashmir for the Kheer Bhawani mela, an annual festival of the Kashmiri Pandit community, will have to undergo proper registration on the pattern of Amarnath Yatra. The notice led to outrage from the Pandit community, who questioned why they have to undergo registration when they are state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mir said he was informed about the notice when he attended his office in the secretariat on Monday. “The order was issued in Jammu after our offices shifted to Srinagar. As a minister I take full responsibility for the lapse but it is actually the mistake of the officer who didn’t inform my office and secretariat officials,” Mir said.
“As the minister concerned, I have to say that the notice is unacceptable. I sincerely regret it,” Mir added.
The minister said that a “huge mistake was committed” but it will be premature to say if the officer had any malicious intentions in issuing the notice.
Mir said that Pandits were sons of the soil who can come and practice their religious affairs without seeking any permission.
“The Kheer Bhawani mela is being celebrated every year by our Pandits. Being sons of the soil they don’t need to register themselves, nor do they need to be scrutinised. If we question them on their entry or exit, then our claim of brotherhood will be a lie,” Mir said.
Mir said the state government has already made security arrangements for the pilgrims who will visit Kashmir for the annual congregation.
Kheer Bhawani is a Hindu temple 14 miles east of Srinagar at Tulmul village. It is thronged by Pandits from across the country and also by people of other faiths in early spring. During the festival, kheer (rice pudding) is offered to the goddess Bhawani, which is why the name Kheer Bhawani.