When Nisha of Jammu tied nuptial knot with a Kashmiri Pandit, Satish Kumar of Sirnoo village in Pulwama, she had had some worst apprehensions about coming to Kashmir.
Post-marriage when she came her in-laws' house in Sirnoo, she hesitated to step out of the home and its neighbourhood for 'security' reasons.
However, her fears slowly started fading out as nothing of the sort happened that she had feared to face in Kashmir. After one year of her marriage, Nisha is the most content member of the minority community in Sirnoo.
"I have been here for last one year. When I got married, I was very much scared. I was concerned about our security after I saw our house surrounded by Muslim dwellings. But my fears got away after seeing the love and affection of my Muslim neighbours here. Among them, I never feel being outside my home or away to my nears and dears. The people here take our care more than that of the members of our own community would take," Nisha said.
"More impressive and touching is that the Muslims here participate in funeral processions of Pandits and shoulder their coffins, besides arranging everything," she said.
There are 14 Pandit families putting up around their Muslim neighbours in Sirnoo village, two kilometers from Pulwama town.
Most of the Pandits here ridicule the government's move of setting up separate townships for the migrant Kashmiri Pandits. "We have been living here in brotherhood and peace amid Muslims since ages and have never faced any problem, not to talk of intimidation or harassment," Sushma, wife of Dilip Kumar said.
"The Muslim brothers and sisters have always been cooperative and helpful. All those Pandits who have migrated should return but live among Muslims in their villages and should never be concerned about their security," she said.
"The idea of separate townships is only politics and in reality there is no need of it. If they need separate colonies surrounded by walls and concertina wires with security guards guarding them, then what is the fun to return?"
As per the official records, there are 167 Pandit families in Pulwama district who did not migrate. They include 69 families in Pulwama Tehsil, 21 in Shahoora, 10 in Rajpora, 12 in Tral, 34 in Awantipora and 21 families in Pampore. However there is no Pandit family in Aripal and Kakapora Tehsils.
In Sirnoo village, the families of Muhammad Akbar Sofi and Rakesh Kumar have been living in a single three-storey house.
Rakesh is a teacher and his wife Rajni is also doing some government job while as Akbar is a baker and has two children, a son Tawseef, and a daughter who is perusing LL.B.
The two families share joys, sorrows and clean the house together. They even share food at times.
"We don't feel that we are two families from two religions as we live together in a single house and share everything," Akbar told Greater Kashmir.
"I came here some 20 years ago and since then I have been living with Pandits in their house. My children were born and have grown up here," he said.
"I was born in this house and grew up here. I used to eat with them (Pandits)," Tawseef said.
Chooni Devi mother of Rajni said the difference between the two families is only that one offers Namaaz while as another holds Pooja.
She said they have faced all ups and downs in the village together.
"Whenever there was any tension in Kashmir or in our village, we have faced it together. We have never felt insecure or separated in any situation."
"My daughter and son-in-law are happy in sharing their house with Akbar Sahib and I think this example is enough to show the world that how we live together here."
A few yards away, a Pandit family is residing on rent in the house of a Muslim family. Two years ago Sanjay Ganjoo, who had migrated to Jammu, got some government job against migrant posts. He along with his wife and two children returned from Jammu and preferred to live in their ancestral village while as his other colleagues are living in the quarters made for Pandit migrant employees.
But as their parents had sold all the property, they managed rented accommodation in a Muslim house.
"We have been living here in the Muslim house and we are surrounded by Muslim houses but we are so lucky to get this accommodation. Everyone comes to us, enquires about our health, needs, problems and always offers us help," Dimple Ganjoo, wife of Sanjay, said.
"I was not expecting such a kind of warmth, love and support from Muslims here. It is like one family here," Ganjoo said while pointing towards some women who had come to give her company.