Hindu Symbols Under Threat In Kashmir
Kashmiri Hindus are the aborigines of Kashmir and have a well-recorded and documented history of over 5000 years of Sanskrit Hindu Civilisation. During all these centuries, Hindus of the Valley have nurtured Kashmir through their strenuous efforts which have contributed immensely to the larger Hindu ethos of the Indian sub-continent. The contribution was not only limited to religion or theology but to aesthetics and music, among others. Hence, over a period of time, Kashmir was not only the geographical habitat for the Hindus of Kashmir, but also a civilizational bedrock where innumerable luminaries spread the light through many millennia. There is no place in Kashmir which is not a Tirtha, mentions the famed Historian Pt. Kalhan, when he says,
Chakrabit vijayash aadi keeshava ishaana bhuushitee,!
Tila ansh api na yatra asti prithvyah tirthah bahishkritah !! (RT, 1, Sh 38)
(Where there resides Disc yielding Vishnu and Ishan Shiva, there is not a space even equivalent to sesame seed which is not a Tirtha)
From the above verse we can amply make out how our ancestors venerated the land of Kashmir and constructed various shrines, temples, ashrams and tirthas to propitiate the Goddess Kashmira as they believed their physical and spiritual existence was connected to Kashmir. In line with their thought process, they wrote peans in praise of Mother Kashmir in litany of works like, Nilmat Puran, Bringesh Samhita, Rajtarangani, etc.
History is testimony to the fact that when invasions took place, various centres of glorious Kashmir were reduced to rubble by the iconoclasts like Sikander Butshikan; a process that has continued till now. The Muslim Sultans felt it was their religious duty to remove these symbols. Hence the grand architectural marvels like Martand, Avantiswamin, Vangat, Parihsapora, Pattan, etc were reduced to rubble and even now their remains speak about their grandeur. However, this mindset of destruction and grabbing which started under Sultans has continued unbated till now and the same is cloaked in the name of Kashmiriyat, which is nothing but a misnomer for communal agenda.
Post-1947, when the democratic governments took the reins in their hands, the persecuted Hindus of valley expected that things would slowly get stabilized. But contrary to their belief, the so-called secular governments in the state started state-sponsored land-grabbing of temple lands and endowments. Thousands of hectares of land of famed temples were taken over from Hindu Managements and transferred to Muslim Trusts. In most cases the take-over was so ruthless and brazen that no one was informed, nor was any compensation given, leave alone taking the permission of the temple trusts or managing committees. The aim was to slowly and systematically remove the Hindu place-consciousness from valley and force the minority Hindus to leave valley. All this happened under the so-called democratic secular dispensations.
After the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus in 1990, and post their exodus, the status of these temples and shrines is much worse and alarming. The village temples are reduced to non-existent entities, as in many places these symbols are removed as if no such thing existed before. The reports coming are that houses, shopping complexes and graveyards are constructed over these places. Revenue records are fudged and, in some cases, changed in favour of encroachers. Those who are trying to retrieve their places of worship are threatened and subjected to physical harm.
Over the years, various Kashmiri Hindu organisation have filed legal cases against such encroachments of their temples, shrines, sacred springs, ashrams, cremation places, etc., but so far, no judicial remedy has come their way. The detailed account of district wise destruction of Temples and Shrines is undertaken by Dr. Rattan Lal Bhat in his book, “Hindu Shrines of Kashmir”. The author has collected all the revenue records and details where encroachments have been done. In other detailed work Col. Tej K Tikoo in his book, “Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus”, also shares the list of vandalised temples. However, the state apathy and silence are costing further damage to these places and no timely action has been taken to prevent destruction which has emboldened the communal enterprise to carry out the vandalization and land grab with impunity.
Communal league in valley under their systematic plan have forced minority Hindus out of Kashmir and now their plan is to remove the religious symbols of Hindus and deprive them of their roots. These regressive forces are working overtime to prevent return of Kashmiri Hindus to the valley and remove all that remains of Hindu civilisation in valley. The larger issue is that there is a silent connivance of bureaucratic, political and civil society in preventing Hindus to reclaim their lost symbols. The state apparatus is completely under the control of such elements who do not want the return of Hindus of Kashmir and are hand in glove with those separatist elements who are vandalising, grabbing and destroying Hindu temples and shrines.
The way forward is to pass a legislation or bill such as ‘Temple and Shrine Bill’ to prevent further damage and encroachments to such places of worship. Unless administration does not ensure the protection under law of these Hindu symbols and make effort for retrieving the encroachments, till then, the safe return of Hindus to valley will remain a pipe dream.
Special Issue of Naad
This special issue of Naad is an eyewitness account from various writers on encroachments and destruction of various temples of Kashmir. The attempt is to wake up the community and the administration to prevent further destruction of their heritage and ensure proper law to ensure the safety of these institutions.
-Sunil Raina Rajanak