Kashmiri Pandits leave for Kheer Bhawani pilgrimage

Kashmiri Pandits leave for Kheer Bhawani pilgrimage

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 stategovernment for the part of journey from Jammu to Tulla Mulla village inKashmir'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 andKashmir government in New Delhi.

"It is a (Jammu and Kashmir) governmentinitiative," she told IANS about provision of buses to the pilgrims.

The annual pilgrimage to one of the holiest shrines ofKashmiri Pandits takes place on Zyestha Ashtami, which falls on June 10.

There was provision for 252 passengers but some of those whohad 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 thepilgrims for free.

It is the second year in a row that the Jammu and Kashmirgovernment has taken such an initiative, said Ravinder Pandita of All PartyMigrant Coordination Committee (APMCC), which is involved in the process.

"We hope that on the Ashtami day, when we all will bepaying obeisance to Mata Kheer Bhawani, our Prime Minister will announcesomething that allows us to return to our homeland and live there again,"said Satish Mahaldar, a displaced Kashmiri Pandit involved in coordination forthe yatra.

Pandita said: "For many years, we (displaced people)could not visit our homeland. For some, there were financial reasons while forothers, 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 theholy shrine."

Every year on Zyesht Ashtami, thousands of Kashmiri Panditsdescend on the temple, located about 14 km east of Srinagar, to pay theirobeisance and mark the Kheer Bhawani Mela'.

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