After Amarnath Violence, Ulema Make Peace Bid

13 July 2008

Srinagar: In an attempt to bring relations between Hindus and Muslims in the valley back on track after the violence over the transfer, and later withdrawal, of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), Kashmir mufti Bashir-ud-din met Hindu pilgrims at Baltal on Sunday. He led a delegation of top Islamic ulema (clergy) to reaffirm the fact that Amarnath Yatra was a part of the glorious tradition of Kashmir. “We want to send across the message that Kashmiri Muslims have nothing against Amarnath pilgrims. The recent agitation for revocation of the land given to SASB was against the government, not Hindus. Pilgrims need not be scared, they are our guests,” Mufti said. It was the first initiative by the ulema after the land agitation polarised Muslim Kashmir and Hindu Jammu. Seven people died in Kashmir and one in Jammu, while over 1,000 were injured in clashes during the pro- and anti-land stir. The row started after the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led state government diverted 39.88 hectares of forestland to SASB, leading to protests by separatists and mainstream parties in Kashmir. Later, Azad revoked the order, sparking violence in Jammu. The issue snowballed so much that Kashmir-based People’s Democratic Party withdrew support to the government, forcing Azad to resign. However, nearly four lakh pilgrims visited the Amarnath shrine through the violence. “In 1947, when India was hit by communal riots, Kashmir was calm. This is our tradition and we continue to follow it,” Mufti said. Bashir-ud-din’s initiative came after local Muslims extended help to stranded pilgrims setting up langars (open kitchens). However, Hindu outfits are not impressed. “Both Kashmir and Jammu are burning. Band-aids will not work. Governor NN Vohra should to find a solution to this issue,” Vinod Pandita, president of All-Party Migrants Coordination Committee said.