Six buses carrying about 240 Kashmiri Pandits left for Kashmir from here this morning on an annual pilgrimage to Kheer Bhawani temple, whose logistics is being taken care of by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
The pilgrims will be provided security by the state government for the part of journey from Jammu to Tulla Mulla village in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, according to sources.
The convoy was flagged off from Kashmir House here at 6 a.m. by Prerna Raina, Additional Secretary in the Resident Commission of Jammu and Kashmir government in New Delhi.
“It is a (Jammu and Kashmir) government initiative,” she told IANS about provision of buses to the pilgrims.
The annual pilgrimage to one of the holiest shrines of Kashmiri Pandits takes place on Zyestha Ashtami, which falls on June 10.
There was provision for 252 passengers but some of those who had registered, did not turn up, the sources said.
According to sources, besides the six-day to and fro travel, the state government is providing boarding and lodging facilities for the pilgrims for free.
It is the second year in a row that the Jammu and Kashmir government has taken such an initiative, said Ravinder Pandita of All Party Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC), which is involved in the process.
“We hope that on the Ashtami day, when we all will be paying obeisance to Mata Kheer Bhawani, our Prime Minister will announce something that allows us to return to our homeland and live there again,” said Satish Mahaldar, a displaced Kashmiri Pandit involved in coordination for the yatra.
Pandita said: “For many years, we (displaced people) could not visit our homeland. For some, there were financial reasons while for others, the issues related to safety were a hindrance. But for two years now, the Jammu and Kashmir government has been helping us to visit our land and the holy shrine.”
Every year on Zyesht Ashtami, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits descend on the temple, located about 14 km east of Srinagar, to pay their obeisance and mark the Kheer Bhawani Mela’.