Shivratri, a grim reminder of the loss of Kashmiriyat – a heritage lost forever

The auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri on Friday came as a grim reminder of what and how much Kashmir has lost, writes columnist Sheikh Qayoom

Srinagar, February 24: Kashmir has lost a lot – in its values, traditions and heritage during the last 27 years of violence.

Out of their total population of around 200,000 who lived in cities, towns and villages of the Valley till 1990 when the armed violence began, barely 3,000 Kashmiri Pandits continue to live at places protected by armed guards in the Valley.

Although the authorities announced uninterrupted electric power supply to areas still inhabited by them on the occasion of Maha Shivratri, it is not difficult to imagine as to how much illumination and fanfare can be possible in homes where residents live like frightened pigeons.

“A much larger number of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed during the last 27 years since violence started here as compared to Kashmiri Pandits.

“Yet, the Pandit community has lost home, hearth, roots, tradition and moorings that unfortunately might never be regained,” lamented Zahoor Ahmad Wani, 51, who lives in north Kashmir.

Other local Muslims are equally sad about the plight of their fellow citizens as the memories of a glorious past are rekindled because of the holiday on Maha Shivratri.

“We would eagerly look forward to the Shivratri dinner waiting for us at the house of the Dhar family living next door.

“Fish and ‘nadru’ (lotus stems), ‘bate roganjosh’, ‘kalya’, ‘machegand’ and ‘kabargah’ were the dishes specially prepared by the local Pandits on this day,” said Ali Muhammad Dar, 72, a resident of central Badgam district.

“But, it was not just the feast and the fun that made our secular bond. The warmth and affection between the two communities was proverbial.

Everybody is today talking about Kashmiriyat, but I’m afraid that all that exists only in political speeches and drawing room discussions now,” he added .

The traditional puja was held this day at the Shiv Temple atop the Sankaracharya hillock and at Ganpathyaar Temple in uptown Srinagar.

Shivratri atop Shankaracharya Hillock
Shivratri atop Shankaracharya Hillock in Srinagar

The local television and radio stations also aired specially prepared programmers on Shivratri.

But, no local Muslim looked forward to greeting the Pandit neighbor next door on the occasion since hundreds of empty, half fallen houses in old Srinagar are a grim reminder of the mutual loss suffered by the Muslims and Pandits of Kashmir.

Once abuzz with life, these abandoned homes have become haunted.

Kashmir’s tragedy is that ghosts do not invite neighbours home to share joys and sorrows with them.

The argument that the Pandit community has prospered after migration as their children have acquired a world view and found jobs and placements in the best companies in the country and abroad is not acceptable to those elderly Kashmiris for whom co-existence is better than all material gains.

“Kashmiri Muslims are now making it to coveted civil services, IITs and IIMs. For the children of the migrant Pandits also, the sky is the limit.

“All this only proves to an old man like me who misses his Pandit class fellow and friend once living next door is that civilisations are finally destroyed by affluence,” said Ghulam Nabi, 78, a retired school teacher of Ganderbal.

Maha Shivratri, the holiest festival of Pandits today has come only to remind Kashmiris of the apparently irreversible breaking of bonds in a society that once stood as a beacon for the rest of the sub-continent.

(Sheikh Qayoom is a Shrinagar based columnist)


  1. Poorly researched article, whitewashed the entire issue.
    Oh and it wasn’t migration,it was forced ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits and magically there are no statements from any authentic Kashmiri Pandit in this article.
    I know how different the situation is on ground as an Indian.

  2. I’m so much disappointed by this article, as an Indian living in India with with my current neighbor a Kashmiri Pandit, who has had so many atrocities committed on her family and has shared them with me with tearful eyes.
    This article shows complete lack of empathy on the part of the writer and shows his eagerness to push his own politics forward low key.

    1-Not one statement is taken from a Kashmiri Pandit living in the valley, why did no one dared to say anything out of fear of their lives?
    2- Kashmiri Pandits have long accused that when the terrorists came to kill/exile them, then the ordinary Kashmiri Muslims were so much radicalized that their own neighbors turned hostile to them. Many were shot by their own neighbors who had lived alongside them for y their lifetimes. And now the statements are taken from Kashmiri Muslims instead of those leftover Pandits.
    3- It was not migration as claimed in this article, it was ethnic cleansing. They were forced to either “Convert, Leave or Die”.
    4- And no they didn’t acquired world view, they were forced to live in refugee camps for years on end, more than 40-50 people stuffed in one tent with no toilet facilities, only then were they given government help and reservation in Engineering college. They focused on education instead of revenge, terrorism or weapons. Thus they are where they are.

    5-If you are going to talk about the deaths of Kashmiri Pandits,try not to dilute it or whitewash it with deaths in the valley now. That already has enough coverage all over the world, it’s only Pandits who nobody cares about and probably have no human rights at all.

    I’m disgusted by the political agenda pushed forward by the author and attempts made to whitewash the deaths of Pandits. BTW, there’s no mention of kidnapping and rapes and dismembered bodies of Pandit girls during ethnic cleansing at all.

    Well done author… white washed it all.

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