J-K CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Takes Haal Route For Kashmiri Pandits' Return

25 March 2015
India Today
Naseer Ganai

Jammu: For generations Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims lived peacefully in the village of Haal of Pulwama district. But militancy forced most of the 80 Pandit families to migrate to safer places. However, now the Jammu and Kashmir government wants the Pandits to return from exile. And keeping that in mind, the state government has announced that Haal would be turned into the first 'ethnographic' village of the state where the buildings shall be reconstructed according to traditional architecture. The government's move has been hailed by the Kashmiri Pandits as a 'positive step'. Today, the houses left behind by the Pandits are not in good shape. Built in traditional architectural style - Taq system (timber laced masonry) and Dhajji Dewari (timber framed with masonry infill) - these buildings are crumbling. The only exception is the three-storey house of Omkar Nath Bhat who did not migrate from the village. The other notable exception is the village temple which was renovated in 2011. Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who announced the plan of ethnographic village, told MAIL TODAY that the houses in the village shall be rebuilt without disturbing their architecture. Explaining the concept of an 'ethnographic' village, Drabu said it shall portray the complete historical and ethnographic characteristics of an ethnic group. Funding for the project shall come from the World Bank, he added. Urging the Kashmiri Pandits to return, Drabu said, 'Even if they return for two months it would create a new atmosphere in Kashmir.' Sanjay Tickoo, a well-known Kashmiri Pandit leader based in the Valley and president of Kashmir Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS), described creation of ethnographic village as a 'step in the positive direction'. 'If this village can become a model of Kashmiri Pandits living together with majority Kashmiri Muslim community, I think it would be a good step,' he said. However, he said it shouldn't be exclusively a Kashmiri Pandit settlement. 'If the village is recreated on those lines then we have issues with it,' he added. Haal is not the only village the government intends to develop on ethnographic lines. Martand is next in the line. Martand houses the Sun Temple. Built in 370 AD, the temple is an important shrine for the Hindus across the country.