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Hindu-Muslim unity still exists in Kashmir
Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
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June 23, 2007 23:33 IST

70-year-old Chaman Lal has come to offer prayers at the Khir Bhawani Shrine temple for the first time after he migrated to Delhi along with his family in 1990 when militancy erupted in Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

This devotee has undertaken the long journey perhaps as the last pilgrimage in his life.

"I used to come each year to offer prayers at Mata's shrine. I hardly remember a time I might not have visited the shrine on the annual fair till my migration.

"This year I was prompted by my old age and devotion for the Mata to offer prayers here as I am old and weak now. Maybe I am not around next year to undertake the pilgrimage," Lal recalled as some Muslims in Tullamulla town, where the holiest Hindu shrine  of the Valley is located, offered a bowl of milk to him in keeping with the historical tradition.

Muslims have always lined up outside the shrine with earthen bowls of milk for their Hindu brothers on the annual festival at Khir Bhawani shrine.

"We have been making this small gesture of goodwill for our Pandit brothers annually. There is nothing unusual about this. It is part of our culture," said Noor Mohammad Bhat, 54, a resident of Tullamulla town.

Lal is deeply touched by the kindness and love of the local Muslims.

"I used to buy herbs from the Muslim children who would line up at Beehama crossing when I used to come here in my youth and middle age. These herbs used to be the choicest offerings for the deity at the shrine.

"I tried to look for those children there today also, but instead of children carrying herbs, I saw men in uniform lined on the two sides of the road there. Anyway, that is a reality none of us can deny, but during the short period I was able to interact with the local Muslims outside the shrine today, nothing has actually changed or been lost. Hearts and minds are at the right place and that is all that matters for a person of my age whose visit is purely religious and personal," Chaman Lal said as he boarded the mini-bus that had brought him and a dozen other devotees to the shrine from winter capital Jammu.

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