By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to open a route for Kashmiri Hindus to the Sharada Peeth temple.
Mufti’s letter comes days after Pakistan opened the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Sikhs pilgrims from India to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.
“Wrote to PM Narendra Modi for opening of Sharda Peeth route for facilitating the Pandit community [in Kashmir]. I hope like Kartarpur, this too will be considered for better peace & prosperity in the region,” Mufti tweeted after sending the letter.
While inaugurating the Karatrpur corridor on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was quoted as saying that his government “could consider other proposals including opening up travel for the Sharada Peeth in Kashmir.”
The ancient temple of Sharada lies in Neelam Valley in Azad Kashmir, 160 km from the capital Muzaffarabad. The Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, has prevented the pilgrimage since the partition in 1947.
The Save Sharada Committee, which has been campaigning to allow Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims to visit the temple, had petitioned the Indian government earlier and also written to the Pakistani PM to facilitate the pilgrimage.
“We have a cross-LoC permit in force since 2007, but this is only for J&K residents to meet their relatives. We want religious pilgrimage to be added to it so that we can visit Sharada,” Ravinder Pandita, head of the Committee told the media. “I hear, he [Imran Khan] has talked about it, and it has given us a lot of hope.”
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.
Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.