MHA nod sought to visit Sharda shrine

JAMMU: Amid worsening Indo-Pakistan relations, a group of civil society members in Jammu and Kashmir have again approached the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to issue special permits to Hindu pilgrims for using the cross-Line of Control (LoC) bus to visit the ancient Sharda temple in Pakisan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Sumit Hakhoo

Tribune News Service

Jammu, October 19

Amid worsening Indo-Pakistan relations, a group of civil society members in Jammu and Kashmir have again approached the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to issue special permits to Hindu pilgrims for using the cross-Line of Control (LoC) bus to visit the ancient Sharda temple in Pakisan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

For years, religious and social groups, including Pandits, have been demanding permission to visit holy shrines in the PoK.

Save Sharda Committee members also met Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh in New Delhi on Friday and apprised him about their demand.

At present, only J&K residents having relatives on the other side of the border can use the cross-LoC bus service that was started on April 7, 2005. However, there are no Hindus and Sikhs living in the PoK.

“We have again submitted our request for a special permit so that Hindu and Sikhs can use the LoC bus to visit their respective religious places in the PoK. The Ministry of External Affairs will also be approached so that they can again take up the issue with their counterparts in Pakistan,” said Ravinder Pandita, the founding member of the committee.

Located on the banks of the Kishenganga, the Sharda shrine is a revered pilgrimage centre for the Hindus. However, no pilgrim has visited it since 1947 when Pakistan occupied a part of J&K. The last yatra was undertaken by Swami Nand Lal, a great saint of the Valley during the Dogra rule.

There is a reference to the shrine in the travelogue of the 10th century Persian traveller Alberuni who said the place was a repository of books and manuscripts.

“It could prove to be the biggest confidence-building measure between two South Asian countries,” said Commodore (retd) DS Sodhi, who is a member of the committee.

In the past few years, several prominent PoK residents have visited India with pictures, soil and videos of the place.

Pilgrimage centre

Located on the banks of the Kishenganga, the Sharda shrine is a revered pilgrimage centre for the Hindus. However, no pilgrim has visited it since 1947 when Pakistan occupied a part of J&K. The last yatra was undertaken by Swami Nand Lal, a great saint of the Valley during the Dogra rule.

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