Kashmiri Pandits Pray For Their Brethrensí Early Return To Valley On Diwali Eve

17 October 2009
Bilal Butt

Srinagar: As people across the country were overwhelmed with the celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, on Saturday, a number of Kashmiri Pandits or Hindus offered prayers for the return of their fellow community members who have been displaced from their homeland on Diwali eve. Theses Kashmiri Pandit families, as they are called in India administered Kashmir, illuminated their houses and offered prayers at a Ganaptiyar temple on Friday. Every heart in the neighbourhood prayed for the return of their fellow community members, who had been forced to seek shelter in different parts of the country as displaced persons after the militants unleashed terror in the region. Also, these families burst firecrackers and lit candles to herald Diwali in the colony of Kashmir Pandits in Srinagar on Friday. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus had to flee from Jammu and Kashmir after militancy broke out in the valley 1989. Everyone prayed that members of their community return to their land at the earliest. 'Ramjiís exile ended after 14 years, but our brothers who have been estranged from us for the past 20 years, when will their and our exile end? We know Diwali would be celebrated, candles and earthen pots will be lit and it would be the best Diwali for us when our estranged brothers and relatives will return to their own region, to their own land,' said Sanjay Tickoo, President Kashmiri Pandits Sangrash Samiti. Kashmiri Pandits also prayed that peace and tranquillity returns to the insurgency-hit Himalayan region. 'We will pray that peace and solace returns to Kashmir like the way it was earlier. And we are confident that peace and tranquillity would return even it takes another two to three years but it will definitely return,' said Ram Nath, another Kashmiri Hindu. According to the National Human Rights Commission, about 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave Kashmir because of the separatist rebellion, which erupted in the region. While some Kashmiri Hindus managed to make their way to Delhi and other parts of the country, about 200,000 disillusioned Pandits are still languishing in Jammu, the stateís winter capital. Diwali is a prominent festival celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and even Jains as such it is an official holiday in India. For Hindus, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Lord Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana.