Tulmulla sees Prayers, Protests & Communal Harmony

Tulmulla sees prayers, protests & communal harmonyScenes of communal harmony mixed with resentment among a section of the migrant Kashmiri Pandits were witnessed today at the shrine of Ragnya Devi at Tulmulla, 27 km from Srinagar city.
Thousands of Pandits from all over the country prayed during the annual Mela Kheer Bhawani as the Hindu festival this time coincided with the fasting month of Ramadan after around three decades. A large number of local Muslims, ranging from street-side vendors and common residents to government officials, too were present at the shrine to welcome the devotees.
Keeping up with the traditions, devotees were seen making offerings of ‘kheer’ and flower petals to Ragnya Devi amid chanting of hymns and devotional songs. However, a protest erupted soon after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti left after paying obeisance at the shrine.
The protesting migrants shouted slogans against both the mainstream and separatist leaders for only doing ‘lip service’ over the return of Pandits. They also hit out at the government for ‘failing’ to provide security to the devotees as two Pandits were reportedly injured in a stone-throwing incident in south Kashmir last evening.
“The PDP and BJP are only doing lip service. Two devotees got injured in stone-throwing yesterday… how can the government ensure the return of Pandits in the present circumstances?” shouted a protester as others were pushed out of the shrine by the police.
As a group of migrants continued to protest outside, a few devotees tried to calm others who too were moved by the protesters. “We have come here to pray. It will be better to stay calm,” said a devotee. A debate on the row over separate townships for Pandits followed.
“I have sold my property after migration… where will I stay now? We are willing to stay at our former native places if we are provided land there. However, if you cannot do so, you have to set up colonies or townships for us,” said MK Bhat, a migrant.
While the debate continued with some favouring and others opposing townships, Kheer Bhawani continued to present scenes of communal harmony witnessed before the eruption of militancy over 25 years ago.
Waqar Bashir, a resident of the nearby Gulab Bagh area, said he visited Tulmulla every year to witness the ‘old Kashmir’. “For me, Tulmulla epitomises the old Kashmir when Pandits and Muslims used to live together in peace. Though some Pandits still live here, we get to see them in full glory only during Mela Kheer Bhawani. Pandits are the missing element of our society,” he said.
The spring surrounding the white marbled shrine at Tulmulla is famous for its changing colours. Devotees say the spring changes seven colours. They say black or red is not a good omen while light colours like blue, white and pink augur well for the future.