Kashmiri Pandits pitch for reopening of ‘seat of learning’ in PoK for them

Srinagar: A representative body of displaced Kashmiri Pandits has asked Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, to push for reopening of Sharda Peeth, a revered place of Kashmiri Hindus in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), for pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir and beyond.

“While she has been bating for enhancing tourism between India and Pakistan through Jammu-Sialkot route she should not forget that Kashmiri Pandits have been denied the right to travel to PoK for pilgrimage to ancient and historic Sharda Peeth temple located in the village of Sharda in PoK ‘even as other local Kashmiris are being issued travel documents to visit their relatives and pilgrimage centers there,” the All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) said in a statement in Jammu on Tuesday.

To visit Sharda near Muzaffarabad to pay obeisance at one of their most
revered religious places and important, ancient seats of learning has been a cherished dream of many Kashmiri Pandits.

A senior government functionary in Muzaffarbad, Sardar Sayyab Khalid, had told this correspondent way back in November 2004 that it would not only throw Sharda open to Kashmiri Pandits but also facilitate their visit. Another, the then PoK’s minister for tourism and archaeology, Mufti Mansoor, who represented Sharda in the area Assembly had said, “If they (Kashmiri Pandits) can
wait for some time they might even use the bus route once the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road is reopened.” Nothing tangible followed.

Sharda is about 150-kms from Muzaffarabad and is a breath-taking green spot at an altitude of 1981 meters. Shardi and Nardi are actually the two mountain peaks overlooking the valley, named after legendary princesses Sharda and Narda. It has a captivating landscape with numerous springs and hillsides covered with thick forest. Over the right-bank, opposite to Sharda, the river Neelam (known as Kishan Ganga on the Indian side of the LoC) is joined by the Surgan mountain stream along which a track leads to the Noori Nar Pass and through it to Kaghan valley. In Sharda, the ruins of an old Buddhist monastery and a fort are located. It was also an important learning seat of Kashmiri Hindu and the old script of Kashmiri language Sharda has derived its name from the place having the historical background.

Reacting to the recent statement of Ms. Mufti that she wanted to create a historic monument at Jammu-Sialkot border, the APMCC said that she must also create history like her father by pushing for reopening of Sharda Peeth in PoK for Kashmiri Pandits. It added “She must emulate her father in providing healing touch to all the sections of the society particularly Kashmiri Pandits”.

Taking up the matter of reopening of the Sahrdha Peeth yatra through Uri-Mzafarabad with the concerned authorities would serve a major Confidence Building Measure (CBM) for Kashmir Panits  paving way for their dignified return and rehabilitation in Valley, it asserted.