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Muslims preserve Hindu temple in Kashmir

A move toward brotherhood and religious harmony

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Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh sweeps the Shiva temple in Payar, a village in southern Kashmir Source: Benarnews

In a rare display of inter-communal harmony, Muslims in a southern Kashmiri village have been taking care of a centuries-old temple since an insurgency forced the resident Hindu population out more than two decades ago.

Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh and some fellow Muslims are the ones who safeguarding and keeping up the Shiva temple in his native Payer. The village in Pulwama district lies some 45 km (28 miles) from Srinagar.

Sheikh and other Muslims sweep the temple clean almost every day. Even back in the 1990s, when the regional insurgency was at its peak and militants targeted temples, Sheikh said he and others protected and preserved the structure.

It reveres Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

“I honor the temple as much as I do the mosque,” Sheikh, a government employee and caretaker of the Shiva temple, told BenarNews.

Payer Temple Source: Twitter
Payer Temple
Source: Twitter

Pulwama is considered a hotbed of militancy. The district accounted for much violence at the height of the insurgency, which goes on today. Kashmir has been the focus of a decades-old dispute between India and Pakistan, which both have territorial claims over the Himalayan region.

“I’m here to ensure its protection and upkeep even if our Pandit brothers are living outside the state for over past two decades,” Sheikh said, referring to local Hindus who were uprooted by inter-communal bloodshed.

“Even during the worst of times, when temples were randomly vandalized by miscreants, with the active support from my neighbors, I ensured there was no damage to the temple,” he added.

Related article: A toast to communal harmony: Bihar Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

According to official data, 208 temples have been damaged or burnt over the past two decades of insurgency in Kashmir.

Last December, the well-known Jwalaji temple in Pampore, a town in Pulwama, was gutted under mysterious circumstances.

Happy Pandits

According to local residents, Pandits, most of whom now live outside Muslim-majority Kashmir, occasionally come to the temple in Payar to worship, and they go home happy and satisfied because it is maintained so meticulously.

Famous saffron feild of Pulwama
Famous saffron feild of Pulwama

“Although no Pandit family has lived in this village for more than 20 years, the minority community members, especially from south Kashmir, occasionally come here,” Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, a retired government official from Payar, told BenarNews.

Domestic and foreign tourists also visit the site quite often, he said, because the temple is famous for its elegant architecture and engraved figurines of Shiva.

“They come here and show lot of interest in learning about its history,” he added.

Challenging task

The maintenance and protection of the temple, situated on the roadside near a rivulet, had been a challenging task until the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) fenced it from all four sides in 2002.

“Before that, it was increasingly difficult to prevent stray dogs and livestock from entering the premises. Now its main gate remains closed and nobody is allowed to visit the temple without permission,” local shopkeeper Altaf Ahmad Mir said.

During unrest that rocked Kashmir in the summer of 2010, a group of youths clashed with security forces near the temple, but village elders managed to prevent them from damaging or desecrating the religious site.

“In the 1990s, a period when temples were increasingly targeted by miscreants, groups of locals took turns to guard the temple day and night,” Mir told BenarNews.

‘No discrimination between mosque and temple’

Members of the minority Pandit community praise the work and devotion shown by the Muslim villagers in keeping up and protecting the temple to Shiva.

“Our Muslim brethren never discriminated between mosque and the temple. They have safeguarded the temple like their own place of worship all these years,” Avtar Krishan, a retired lecturer from Pulwama, who now lives in Jammu – the predominantly Hindu portion of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir – told BenarNews.

“Protection of the temple, even during the turbulent times, sends a strong message to the world community that Muslims and Pandits lived like brothers until the insurgency forced the minority community members to flee,” he added.

Anil Kumar, a pharmacist from Anantnag district, echoed Krishan’s views.

“Kashmiris are well-known for their religious harmony and hospitality,” he told BenarNews.

“And our Muslim brothers have demonstrated that tradition by protecting the temple from miscreants’ attacks repeatedly.”(BenarNews)

  • Pritam Go Green

    Other Muslims need to learn from these people. We all are first of all humans .After that religion comes .So, irrespective of all our dissimilarities we all should respect each other cultural diversities.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Hope it helps to strengthen communal harmony

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Glad to know that at least somewhere Muslims are showing reverence to Hindu religion. Humanity is way beyond religious bigotry. Hope the Hindu extremists and jihadis get to learn something from it

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Other Muslims need to learn from these people. We all are first of all humans .After that religion comes .So, irrespective of all our dissimilarities we all should respect each other cultural diversities.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Hope it helps to strengthen communal harmony

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Glad to know that at least somewhere Muslims are showing reverence to Hindu religion. Humanity is way beyond religious bigotry. Hope the Hindu extremists and jihadis get to learn something from it

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India: Sugar Mills, Distilleries under The Scanner of Special Task Force of UP Police for Links with Hooch Syndicates

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol

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India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

As more than a hundred people died in ‘poisonous hooch’ tragedies in Uttar Pradesh during the past one year, a few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Working round the clock to bust ‘killer syndicates’ supplying cheap industrial alcohol to bootleggers and gangs involved in manufacturing of illicit liquor, STF has seized more than 10,000 litres of rectified spirit in raids across the state in the past one month.

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol and is usually used in manufacturing of paints, fragrance, printing ink and coating. As it is cheaper, the liquor syndicates get it smuggled from distilled ethanol manufacturing units. On June 16, STF seized 5,750 litres of rectified spirit (high concentration alcohol) from the possession of a big time crime syndicate active in Lucknow and Kanpur.

The STF rounded up the kingpin, Suraj Lal Yadav, along with six other members of the gang. During interrogation it was discovered that Yadav was well-connected with some distilleries in Haryana. Large quantities of industrial alcohol was smuggled out of Haryana and pushed into hooch manufacturing dens in UP.

Concerned about frequents deaths in UP due to consumption of poisonous hooch, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a statewide crackdown on illicit liquor manufacturing gangs after 21 people died in a hooch tragedy in Barabanki two months ago. The STF, considered the state’s premiere crime busting agency, subsequently geared up to intercept scores of tankers and private vehicles being pushed into UP from Delhi and Haryana.

India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

“The syndicate involved in smuggling of rectified spirit has spread its tentacles in the state. Even murders have taken place in disputes relating to the smuggling. But our raiding parties are determined to bust the gangs. Innumerable cases have been registered by us in the past one-and-a-half years,” said Amitabh Yash, Inspector General(IG) of STF.

Even though the STF, after rounding up the accused handed over the investigation of the case to the district police, the agency is said to have the most precise data on organised crime in North India.

“We seldom investigate the cases as it involves prolonged court work, so our main aim is focused on cracking heinous crimes, particularly organised by crime syndicates. At the moment, gangs involved in illicit trade of hooch are our target,” said Amitabh Yash, known for his skills in dealing with underworld operations and syndicate crimes. When asked whether a few officials of the excise department and a couple of distilleries could be linked with smugglers of rectified spirit, the IG said a report was given in this connection to the government.

While high excise duty makes liquor expensive, hooch, on the other hand, is available for less than Rs 20 per bottle. At places the rates are less than even Rs 10 per liter. A report, in connection with the Saharanpur hooch tragedy in February 2019 which took the lives of over 50 people, reveals that the quantity of rectified spirit mixed in the drink was so high that it had the effect of poison.

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The report says that rectified spirit was smuggled by criminal gangs which were hand-in-glove with local authorities.

“The gangs have links in distilleries and chemical factories from where industrial alcohol is smuggled out at a very cheap price. It is later re-packed in drums and transported to hideouts of manufacturers (of illicit liquor),” said a source in the police.

With widespread sale of hooch across UP, CM Yogi Adityanath has instructed DGP O.P. Singh to take stringent measures against the culprits and ensure that police secures conviction of those accused who are put on trial in cases of hooch smuggling or hooch-related deaths. (IANS)