Muslims reach out to Kashmiri Pandits on Herath

As part of a new initiative called ‘Raabta’, greeting cards were sent to Hindus highlighting the strong ties between the two communities

A new initiative to connect Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims was recently started in the Valley. On the occasion of Herath (Shivratri) on Tuesday, greeting cards were sent out, as part of the initiative, with warm wishes for the festival.

‘Raabta Kashmir’ started out as a small endeavour to “help search and reconnect old friends, neighbours, school mates, colleagues, families from Kashmir who haven’t heard from each other in the last 28 years”, said Jaibeer Ahmad, who is curating the community page on Facebook.

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Specially designed Herath e-cards were issued on the occasion, highlighting the past bonhomie between the two communities.

“It’s a timely and much needed initiative. At a time when shrill voices of hardliners are drowning the voices of sanity, all moderates must stand up,” Ravinder Kaul commented on the page.

Over 1,000 Pandit families celebrated Herath in Kashmir on Tuesday. A majority of the community migrated from the Valley in the face of raging militancy in the 1990s.

One of the greeting cards issued features a Persian translation of the Mahabharata. State Public Works Minister Nayeem Akhtar praised the initiative. “I have been circulating the card for the past three weeks among Pandits I get to meet. The card has a painting by Ahmed Kashmiri and Persian translation by Nakib Khan,” Mr. Akhtar said.

Kashmiri Muslims greeted Pandit friends online and visited the houses of those living in the Valley.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq made an appeal to Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley.

“On the occasion of Herath, I extend warm greetings to our Kashmiri Pandit community. Hope that they return to their homeland and once again live among us as before,” he said.

Several holy places in the Valley such as the Shankaracharya temple, Khir Bhawani temple, Ganpatyar temple and Hanuman Mandir wore a festive look on the occasion.

Spreading cheer
Kashmiri Pandits prepare special dishes of fish and share them with neighbours and friends on the day. Mahant Parma Nandas, the headpriest in Ganpatyar and Hanuman Mandir, said the Kashmiri Pandit way of celebrating Shivratri was quite unique.

Kashmiris believe the occasion is marked by rain and snow. This year, after a long dry spell, it snowed heavily in the past two days.