Kashmiri land sharks swallow temple land

Monday, 14 February 2011 10:53 Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant Jihad - War-Violence
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Vitasta ambles through the Kashmir valley. The hills around and the natural forests comprising deodar and pine trees present a pleasing sight to residents and visitors coming to the Kashmir valley from far and near. Of course, Vitasta is now renamed Jhelum and the demography too had undergone many changes many times.

Kalhan , the great Sanskrit poet sat in the thickly wooded picturesque Kashmir valley many thousand years ago and wrote Rajtarangini describing the important kings and queens, men and women who had contributed to the rich cultural heritage of the valley, hills and dales. Even the invaders from Central Asia who showed the prowess of their arms in the culturally rich valley were in turn influenced by the Kashmiriat of the pre-Islamic era. The history of Kashmir bears out that the Shiva temples and the Shaiv heritage was flowing in the veins of an average Kashmiri as smoothly as the Jhelum river through numerous bends, twists and turns without losing her majestic gait sans a sense of hurry. 

The Afghan invaders wrested the peace and culture of the Kashmir valley from its rulers and residents forever. The Mughals were also lured into the heaven-like hills and dales and went in for laying the large scale gardens. The maximum damage was, however, done by the Afghans to change the skyline from the temple dominated Kalash to roof-hugging minarets of mosques and Sufi places of worship that meant singing praise of the Lord for long. The Sanskrit language was replaced by the Persian language and some non-descript dialects like Dardi and Pushto from Kandahar region also made a debut. An upheaval of sorts in the realm of religion, culture, languages and apparel of both sexes was in the offing. The milieu of Kashmir stood changed in the middle ages. However, Kalhan and his Rajtarangini were as dear to the linguistically transformed man and woman of the middle ages as they were to the pre-Islamic people.

The Hindu resurgence brought the Dogra rulers back to the throne and temple Kalash were more in evidence on the Kashmir skyline than ever before. The Hindu-Dogra kings encouraged the composite culture of Jammu and Kashmir and it continued to be called a Heaven on Earth.

Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time is never stationary. It moves on and on. The Dogras were replaced by an elected government but the Peace on Land remained as elusive as ever before. In 1990, the Islamist Terrorism came with full fury. The Hindus were driven away but the Hindu temples remained. The famous Shankaracharya temple on the high hill dominating the Srinagar valley is the most important landmark for locals and visitors alike. A large number of Hindu temples with land attached to them for maintenance remained at their respective places. The Mahants and Purohits were, generally speaking from the Kashmiri Pundit class except for some who came from the famous Namboodari family of Kerala. By the way, the famous Adi Shankaracharya who defeated the Buddhist bigwigs and revived the Hindu Dharma in Bharat, belonged to the Namboodari class of Brahmins from Kerala.

Right from the year 1990 when the full fury of the Islamic terrorism came into evidence, a large scale exodus of the Hindus from the Kashmir valley took place. When the rank and file of the Hindu community, but for a few, left Kashmir, what was the point in the Priest class staying back? In some parts of the Kashmir valley, not even a single Hindu family stayed back because even the local Muslim population had turned hostile. In some cases the local Muslims had their evil eye on the property of the Hindus and also on their pretty nubile girls. So, the Hindu population migrated to the Jammu region of the State, notwithstanding half a million strong Indian Army being stationed in the valley. The Indian Army was not permitted by the local government to intervene as it was only a law and order problem and not one of foreign aggression. Thus almost three hundred thousand Hindus became refugees in their own country and their own soldiers were toothless to protect them. The posterity will not pardon the decision makers who let this ethnic-cum-religious cleansing take place in blatant violation of the constitutional law.

Fake Mahants replaced the real mahants in temples. The fake mahants stepped into the shoes of the real claimants and started administering the temple property. Now it has come to light that one such mahant was not even a citizen of India. He slipped into the temple administrative hierarchy surreptitiously and acted in a manner that was detrimental to the interests of the Hindu temple. Initially, the Hindus were dazed because of the lethal blows of terrorists but once they regained their senses, they questioned the impropriety of transferring Hindu temple immoveable property to non-Hindu parties. The sale deeds were fake like fake mahants in some cases that were rightly challenged in due course of time. It is rather surprising that the State government was as immobile in questioning the illegal transfer of land of the Hindu temples as the surviving mahants in limbo in some secluded corner of Jammu.

High Court Intervenes

Justice Sunil Hali took cognizance of numerous law suits pending in lower courts where the Kashmiri Pundits had challenged the transfer of temple property to business houses in Srinagar for purposes other than the advancement of the Hindu Dharma. It may be recalled that the House of Dogra Kings had created Dharm Sansthan in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir over two centuries ago. Extensive land was attached to the temples to bear the expenditure of their maintenance. The land in Srinagar appreciated many fold over a period of time and the builders, property dealers etc eyed this custodian-bereft property. The present state government took little interest in the upkeep and maintenance of temples and other Hindu charitable institutions created by the Hindu endowments. This was the golden opportunity for the land sharks to make a kill and they did so. Many temple properties created by private Hindu trusts and left abandoned since 1990 after the mass migration of the Hindus were transferred to business houses for commercial motives. The state officials colluded in the illegal sale and transfer of property. The High Court has now asked the state government to stop such transfer of temple property and take possession of property lying in limbo.

But for the intervention of the judiciary, the private trusts would have become defunct and fake mahants would have sold temple lands to new non-Hindu commercial establishments and lined their personal pockets. It may, however, be mentioned that the temples and their appurtenances governed by the high powered religious trusts created by the Dogra kings are protected and well administered. Dr Karan Singh, a direct descendant of the Dogra kings is himself taking personal interest in the management of temples and property attached to them.

The need of the hour is to remain alert and prevent transfer of temple land to land sharks. Retrieval of land lost owing to fake transfers must also be pursued vigorously by the state government under the supervision of the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu & Kashmir.