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Temple that vanished

By Shyam Kaul

If someone were to look deeply into the eventful, though disconcerting, developments of the past twenty years in Kashmir, purely from a mundane angle of ‘profit and loss’, it would make an interesting study and a revealing one too.

Even for an average Kashmiri who has been through and suffered or benefited, from these developments, there is enough to recollect by way of his experiences, far more painful than comforting.

The rise of militancy and violence in the early 1990s which had instantly planted the dreams of ‘azadi’ in the eyes of the people is a thing of the past. The dream has so far been and still continues to be in doldrums, with hardly any hope of its realization in its original or modified forms in the foreseeable or distant future. This could be counted as the major loss for the protagonists of ‘azadi’.

On the ‘profit’ side, however, the picture is not bleak at all. In fact it is very rosy for large sections of Kashmiri society. Haven’t we seen, during these past two decades, the emergence of lakhpatis and crorepatis in plenty, with many arabpatis in the making? The gun has liberally sprayed its blessings through bullets on all those who used it, not for the ‘liberation struggle’, but for their pelf and power, prosperity, pleasures and a merrier life. The power of gun has created a neo-rich class in Kashmir whose affluence has been manifesting itself in many ways, including a spectacular spate of building activity, especially in urban areas.

We now have an affluent class of politicians too, many of them masters of millions. How and why, need no answer because what is visible to the naked eye is self-explanatory. After all the paradise on earth is now also the receptacle of lucre from sources galore. No wonder the perpetuation of militancy and uncertainty has become a vested interest with many sections of our society.

We Kashmiris have a weird knack of turning crisis situations, such as natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, droughts and of course man-made militancy, into opportunities for making a fast buck the easy way. Over the past twenty years, the smarter among us have fully put their knack into use to freely fish in troubled waters of Kashmir. Their ‘achievements’ are there for anyone to see and that is why they want the troubled waters to be always in high tide.

When talking of ‘profit and loss’ to the fellow displaced Kashmiri Pandits (KP) in Jammu or elsewhere in the country, one often comes across pithy and expressive comments like, for instance, ‘India may or may not lose Kashmir, but the KP has lost it.’

Judging by the sufferings of the KP community, beginning with their displacement and exodus, there appears to be quite some truth in their fears. Having left the valley, they instantly lost their habitat, their social, cultural and pluralistic milieu, their centuries-old roots of belongingness to their land of ancestors and their fundamental right of living freely and honourably in their own homes in own land of birth. Meanwhile during the endless years of their exile, the KPs have lost almost everything they had left behind, except the throwaway returns some of them got for parting with their properties. These deals are now acknowledged as ‘distress sales’ and efforts are being made to get their annualled by the government.

Lately the most talked about ‘loss’ is that of religious shrines and the landed properties of these shrines. The situation indeed is worrying as reports of large scale encroachments, illegal occupations and clandestine, unauthorised and illegal sales, continues to pour in. The situation is further aggravated by the government’s inability or more aptly, apathy is correcting and preventing the widely practised wrongs. There is a bill before the state legislature now for the protection of the religious properties of Kashmiri Hindus awaiting its enactment as a law. But the government appears to be doing calculated heel-dragging in the matter.

As if to certify the veracity of the disturbing situation about religious properties, my journalist colleague and fellow Safapurwala, Ashok Pehelwan, asked me one day recently, in an asitated voice, “Could you believe that a plot of land, with a temple standing in its midst, has disappeared?”

”No, I can’t,” I shot back, “how can it happen? No doubt we hear of encroachments, forced occupation, vandalisation and the like, but how could there be a disappearance?”

Safapur is a largely-spread village, on the banks of Mansbal lake, with Kolpur as one of its extended localities, a mini village by itself.

In early 1980s, Tarawati, the redoubtable and popular Mokdambai (headwoman) of Kolpur, took the initiative for building a temple in the village. The search for a piece of land started in right earnest with the spontaneous cooperation of Muslim members of the village community. Finally it was decided that the government would be approached for a plot of land on the lakeside of Kolpur. Accordingly a mixed delegation, headed by Tarawati, met the revenue authorities at the then tehsil headquarters at Sumbal. The revenue officials were deeply moved by the enthusiasm of the mixed delegation and the tehsildar sanctioned a plot measuring nearly two kanals of land for building a temple.

Again, with the collective efforts of the villagers, it did not take long for the temple to come up. Yet again the youths of the village joined hands to retrieve an imposing and tall lingam of Lord Shiva transported it to Kolpur and installed it in the temple. The lingam had been pushed into the river Jhelum by marauding tribal invaders from Pakistan, in 1947, at village Asham, four kilometres away from Safapur, after removing it from a place of worship of Rajput Dogra orchardists in the village.

Ashok Pehelwan told me that a few weeks back two Muslim neighbour from Kolpur had come to Jammu and they informed him that a fire brigade station was coming up close to the temple, which was in a bad shape, with its boundary wall having completely collapsed, and the temple partly vandalised. They also urged him to ensure that, to beging with, the boundary wall of the temple is reconstructed so as to protect the temple area from any encroachment. The internal repairs, the two men suggested, could follow later.
Ashok acted promptly, got in touch with fellow KPs of Kolpur Safapur, now living at different places. They raised funds for the repairs at the temple and decided to start work without any delay.

The next step naturally was to get the details of the land area of the temple from the concerned revenue authorities. It was then that the disappearing trick came to light. The concerned Patwari of the area informed them that in the revenue records nothing like a temple or any land under it existed, and therefore he could not provide them with any details, for a non-existent structure.

Where have the temple and its land disappeared, inspite of standing where they are? They do not exist simply because the revenue records are sacrosanct, and therefore no temple nor its land exist at Kolpur. Now go and find the answer for yourself.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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