Shivratri or Herath is considered the most important festival of the Kashmiri Pandits, towering above all others. Though now a days, apart from the festivities and joy there also remains a sense of gloom and despair about a land lost and the sad truth looming about Shivratri no longer being celebrated in the place they all hold dear.
Same was the case in an ancient Shiv Temple in Sumbal, a town 25 KM from Srinagar. The temple had not seen any Shivratri celebrations since the exodus of the Pandits in 1990 but as reported in this now viral piece of NDTV, things appeared to be changing. The story went about how local muslims turned up at the temple, cleaned it, performed puja and also distributed walnuts the traditional prasad of the pandits. Not just that, at the entrance of the temple stood hundreds of people with placards asking the Pandits to return home. Further, the piece claimed, muslim residents made melodramatic statements like, ‘They(Kashmiri Pandits) are part of our body and soul which has been snatched and separated from us. Today we are sending a message to them. Please return, we are with you.’
Going by the report, it was such a wonderful display of harmony and fellowship which may heal the scars of the past. Though when something appears too good to be true, it almost always is.
But, according to a facebook post by Vimal Sumbly a Kashmiri Pandit who hailed from the same town of Sumbal, the whole incident was nothing but a photo-op designed to lull people into a false sense of security. Vimal is also a Journalist, who has lived for 18 years in that town, and during a visit in 2015 learnt that the main Shivling no longer existed and was thrown into the river. The puja in the reports was conducted on one of the smaller shivlings, many of which too have been removed.
he claimed that even the temple land had been encroached upon by an Islamic school and to enter the temple one needs to go via that school. The locals now have also started making calls to convert the temple into a Muslim shrine as they claim it was originally a shrine of Khwaja Syed Sahab whose one shrine already exists across the river. They even told this to the author who was well aware about the true history of the temple.
To pinpoint the motive, he claims that this incident comes in the backdrop of the Hurryat relaxing it’s fatwa on Shivratri thereby wishing to hide it’s true sectarian colours. And the same may have been the motive of the locals. To further his case he also claimed that a Pundit Janki Nath Sumbly, whose family had made a lot of contributions towards the temple, was shot outside it in 1990 when he had decided to stay back.
One wonders if NDTV fell for the supposed propaganda or had it knowingly carried it.
This isn’t the first time the media has carried such stores which puts out an untrue picture of the ground realities. In October when Bengal witnessed violence during Durga puja regional media outfits were busy carrying stories about Muslims partaking in Durga Puja and Hindu Ladies helping dress kids up for Razia celebrations