Pandits pray for early return to Kashmir
9 June 2000
Kheerbawani: Thousands of migrant Kashmiri Hindus gathered on Friday at a temple in India"s strife-torn Kashmir valley to pray for an early return to their "homeland". Nearly 300,000 Hindus, called Pandits fled the valley, the hotbed of the separatist war in mainly India"s only Muslim majority province, after an armed rebellion broke out in 1990. "Since last evening we are praying for our early return to our valley, our homeland, we no longer can wait. I hope Mata (Goddess) will answer our prayers," a 50-year-old Kashmiri Hindu woman Kamleshwari said. (Photo by Nissar Ahmed shows a Pandit woman offering prasad to paramilitary jawans at Kheerbawani.) Kamleshwari along with thousands of Kashmiri Hindus who live in migrant camps in Jammu and other parts of India have come to Kashmir to attend the annual festival of Kashmiri Pandits at Kheerbawani temple on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmi. "I came to Kashmir after 10 years and now it is painful to go back. I have asked Kheerbawani for her help," a tearful Anju, Kamleshwari"s daughter said. Authorities had stepped up security in and around the white temple of Kheerbawani surrounded by streams in the backdrop of lush green tall Chinar trees. Police and paramilitary troops searched for explosives with mine detectors and sniffer dogs.