In the times of grief and despair over the killing of a Kashmir pandit employee, the Valley found a silver lining as Muslims and Hindus came together to bid a final adieu to an 80-year-old woman.
Kashmiryat and Insaniyat, for a while, resided over the despair after the brutal murder of Rahul Bhat, a clerk, who was gunned down on Thursday by militants inside the Tehsil office in Chadoora. The police had blamed Lashkar-e-Toiba for the attack and claimed they killed two foreign terrorists in Bandipore, after they had travelled to Chadoora to carry out Bhat’s assassination. The 36 year-old employee, who was working with the Revenue department in the Valley for the last 11 years met a tragic end; sparking gloom and tension across the country.
On Saturday, barely two days after the dastardly act, villagers of Yar Khushipora in South Kashmir district of Kulgam arranged a special funeral of Dulari Bhat, an 80-year-old Hindu woman who died while attending a marriage of a relative in a nearby village.
Early on Saturday morning, she was brought to Y K Pora for cremation. Since a very few Hindu families put up there, local Muslim youth were tasked to make the funeral arrangements by the village elders.
They quickly arranged everything – to fetch pieces of wood to setting up a funeral pyre, making an open casket to carry the body to the crematorium, petals and incense – till she was consigned to flames.
Dulari had gone to Mattan, Anantnag to attend a marriage ceremony of her relatives when her condition deteriorated and she breathed her last. She was taken to her native village Y K Pora where scores of her Muslims neighbours waited for her body. Women lined up in rows near her house with tears in her eyes.
“We have lived together for last 50 years and have stood by each in joy and grief,” said her friend Saja, looking pensive.
“We would celebrate festivals and attend marriages together and it never crossed us we are from different faiths,” she said. “Her death is a personal loss to me and the entire village. I will miss her.”
Neighbours remembered her as a kind and wise person who would help them with chores and worldly matters. Even the younger women were fond of her and would often turn up for advise.
“Our village is called Wakipora and it is know for brotherhood for centuries. Our great grand fathers have lived together in this village. I and Rinku Bhat, her younger son, are friends for last 30 years. We share special bond,” a villager was heard saying and added “the village is the best example of bonhomie and oneness and we are proud of this legacy”.
Subhash Kumar Bhat, Dulari’s son acknowledged the help from the Muslims and said this is not unusual and people should not get surprised.
“Our family was in grief but they arranged everything for the cremation. This is how communities should live,” he said. Others said the village ‘holds out hope to Kashmir at a time when polarisation and negativity has damage the fabric of the country’.
Village elders recalled since Dulari’s marriage in the village, she has spent all her years at Y K Pora, making friends and holding long conversations.
The Bhats did not leave Kashmir inspite of the killing of Dulari’s husband in the early 1990s. Over a period of time, the family wounds healed but Dulari never let it come her way. “Both Muslims and Hindus suffered in the early 90s and she never grudged against a community,” said Chunni Lal, her relative who had come to participate in the funeral.
The Kulgam bonhomie comes close on the heels of tragic killing of Rahul Bhat and series of targeted attacks on the minority members, non-local labourers, police personnel and politicians.
Kashmiris of all hues have condemned the incident and staged protests and candlelight vigils to express solidarity with the Hindus on the selective killings.
The LG government in Jammu and Kashmir have promised a government job in Jammu to Bhat’s wife besides bearing the expenses for education for her lone daughter. The government attached Station House Officer of Chadoora and ordered a probe by a Special Investigation Team into the killing to assuage the hurt of Kashmiri Pandits. Employees of the community working in Valley however want the government to relocate them to Jammu till a foolproof security is entailed for them.