In Shopian, Kashmiri Pandits busy in apple harvesting

Reports of fresh exodus baseless: SSP Shopian
“Our entire village is tied up in harvesting”, says Pandita with a smile flickering across his face.[Representative Image]
“Our entire village is tied up in harvesting”, says Pandita with a smile flickering across his face.[Representative Image]Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Pargochi (Shopian), Oct 28: A sinuous road passing through the recently-harvested apple orchards in south Kashmir’s Shopian town leads to a quaint Pargochi village. As one enters the village, the residents could be seen pruning their vast apple farms.

A few apple trucks have pulled off the narrow village road, readying to leave for the outstation Mandis. A few meters away, near the bend of the road, stands the newly-constructed house of Vir Je Pandita, a Kashmir Pandit. As one opens the sturdy iron gate of Pandita’s house, he could be seen sitting cross-legged in front of a mountain of ruby red apples, and putting them carefully in the wooden cartons. Pandita is being helped by his 8-year-old son.

“Our entire village is tied up in harvesting”, says Pandita with a smile flickering across his face.

Pandita’s is among the eight families who stayed put in the village when most of the members of their community fled the Valley following the eruption of militancy in early nineties. The recent targeted killing of Puran Krishan Bhat, which took place in Choudary Gund village of the district, did not have any bearing on the decision his family had made some 32 years ago.

“Such killings are really disturbing but we are living happily among our Muslim neighbors”, says Pandita.

A short walk away from Pandita’s house is the vast apple farm of Jagannath. Bundled up in woollens, the octogenarian Jagannath is supervising the four Muslim workers, who are busy in packing the bright red apples in cardboard cartons.

Jagannath said that although the recent targeted killing created a scare among them, they did not have any intention to leave the village.

However, he said that once the harvesting season was over, he would travel to Jammu as part of his usual routine.

“Every year I spend winters in Jammu due to harsh weather conditions and move back in summers”, said a frail Jagannath while clearing his throat.

Jaganath is the village head and a much respected man in the entire Pargochi neighborhood.

Presently, there are over 42 Pandit families living in different villages of the district.

Following reports of fresh Pandit migration from the area, the district administration came up with a clarification and termed such reports as baseless.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Tanushree told Greater Kashmir that the reports about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community from the district were “unfounded and baseless.”

She said that the police had created a secured environment for the community and they were trying to instill confidence among them.  

“We are all making efforts to ensure the security to these people. We have already increased patrolling in their localities”, she said.

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