An organisation representing Kashmiri Pandits today asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to take up with the Centre the issue of pilgrimage to the ancient Sharda temple in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Sharda Peeth, once regarded as a major centre of learning, is an abandoned Hindu temple located in Sharda village along the Neelam river near the Line of Control (LoC). The All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) renewed its appeal after a delegation of members of the Save Sharda Committee (SSC) and BJP MLA Ramesh Arora met Mufti last week for facilitating the pilgrimage on permit basis through the LoC in north Kashmir. The APMCC had formed the SSC last year to press for re-opening of the pilgrimage and had gained support from various quarters. “We hope that the chief minister will take up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj the issue of initiating a dialogue with the Pakistan government to ensure early re-opening of the Sharda temple for pilgrimage,” APMCC national spokesperson King C Bharati said.
He said the re-opening of cross-LoC trade and travel in 2005 had rekindled hopes that Hindus would also get permission to pay obeisance at the Sharda temple but instead the government kept the issue in cold storage. Bharati said it was raised several times in the past and a delegation led by APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit had even held a discussion with Modi in 2013 when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. “He (PM) had assured that he would take up the matter with the Pakistan government after the election,” he said. Bharati said the Kashmiri Pandits are hopeful that the Centre would take up the matter with Pakistan, keeping in view the religious sentiments of the community.