Shopian: When his family members were in distress over the prolonged illness of Baskar Nath, 60, it was Muhammad Ayub Bhat who took out his SUV and took the ailing Nath to SKIMS Soura early Friday morning where Nath breathed his last on Saturday morning. He was suffering from chronic kidney diseases.
Back in their native village of Pargochi when news of his death reached, all the Muslims neighbours of Nath left their homes holding shovels and started clearing the streets leading to his house. Ayub was bringing the body home in an ambulance.
Some of the villagers meanwhile went to his orchard, which was covered in more than 1.5 feet of snow since it started snowing in the morning, to cut some trees for cremation of the deceased. They also removed snow from the cremation yard which is situated some 250 meters from the village.
The ambulance, according to locals, couldn’t make it to the village, though. Dozens of villagers went to push the ambulance through the snow but failed. They brought the body on their shoulders using a stretcher for more than a kilometer. Locals said that despite repeated calls to the authorities, no snow clearance machine or any help came from the district administration.
Locals said that there are seven Pandit families living in the village and many of them spend the winters in Jammu. They said that only five Pandits, including the son of the deceased, took part in the last rites.
“I live in Jammu. I came here a few days ago and seeing such a brotherly behaviour of Muslims, I am short of words to express my gratitude. There was no Pandit; everything, whether it be the arrangement of wood, clearing the road or giving shoulder to the body, was done by Muslims,” said 45-year-old Pyari Lal Pandit.
Another Hindu from the village said that Muslims of the village always help in times of need. “They don’t intervene in our religious affairs, they sit at a distance when a ritual has to be done by a Pandit or family members. But the rest of the arrangements are wholly and solely done by our Muslim brethren,” he said.
Muhammad Ayub said that the Muslims don’t do these things for display but because of brotherhood. “There are some contractors of peace and violence; they should come here and shut up,” he said.
Muhammad Rafiq, a local, said that the children of the deceased are minors and it was their responsibility to help their neighbour in the last rites. “We first brought the body on a stretcher. Some of us arranged the wood and others removed snow from the lanes. It is heavily snowing here, which added to the problems, but we succeeded in the arrangements and the last rites were conducted properly,” Rafiq said.
Pargochi village comprises 97 percent Muslims but has a Pandit Lumberdar since decades, and his nephew is the Lumberdar of another neighbouring village which has no Pandit family living there.
Bilal Ahmad, a resident of Pargochi, said that the village is a unique example of communal harmony. He said that Pandit neighbours are invited for marriages and sweets sent to them on festivals, and they in return do the same with the Muslims.
The deceased has left behind three daughters, a son, wife, and a sister. He was a popular landlord in the area. His death was the second of a Pandit in the village in the past six months.