In these times of grief and despair over the murder of a Kashmiri Pandit employee, the valley found a silver lining as Muslims and Hindus came together to say a final goodbye to an 80-year-old woman.
Kashmiryat and Insaniyat, for a time, lived in despair after the brutal murder of Rahul Bhat, an employee, who was shot dead by militants inside Tehsil’s office in Chadoora on Thursday. Police had blamed Lashkar-e-Toiba for the attack and claimed to have killed two foreign terrorists in Bandipore, after they traveled to Chadoora to carry out Bhat’s assassination. The 36-year-old employee, who had worked in the Valley tax department for 11 years, met a tragic end; sowing sadness and tension throughout the country.
On Saturday, just two days after the despicable act, villagers in Yar Khushipora, Kulgam district, south Kashmir, held a special funeral for Dulari Bhat, an 80-year-old Hindu woman who died while she was attending a relative’s wedding in a nearby village. .
Early on Saturday morning, she was brought to YK Pora to be cremated. As very few Hindu families settled there, local young Muslims were tasked with arranging the funeral by the village elders.
They quickly arranged everything – fetching pieces of wood to build a funeral pyre, making an open coffin to transport the body to the crematorium, petals and incense – until she was delivered to the flames.
Dulari had gone to Mattan, Anantnag to attend a wedding ceremony of her relatives when her condition deteriorated and she breathed her last. She was taken to her home village, YK Pora, where dozens of her Muslim neighbors were waiting for her body. Women lined up in rows near his house with tears in their eyes.
“We have lived together for 50 years and have supported each other through joy and sorrow,” her friend Saja said thoughtfully.
“We celebrated festivals and attended weddings together and it never crossed our minds, we are of different faiths,” she said. “Her death is a personal loss for me and for the whole village. I will miss her.”
Neighbors remembered her as a kind and wise person who helped them with household chores and worldly affairs. Even young women liked him and often came to ask for advice.
“Our village is called Wakipora and it has been known for its brotherhood for centuries. Our great-grandfathers lived together in this village. Me and Rinku Bhat, his youngest son, have been friends for 30 years. We share a special bond,” said one villager, who added “the village is the best example of bonhomie and unity and we are proud of this heritage.”
Subhash Kumar Bhat, Dulari’s son, acknowledged the help from Muslims and said it was not unusual and people should not be surprised.
“Our family was in mourning but they arranged everything for the cremation. This is how communities should live,” he said. Others said the village “brings hope to Kashmir at a time when polarization and negativity have damaged the fabric of the country.”
Village elders recalled that since Dulari got married in the village, she spent all her years in YK Pora, making friends and having long conversations.
The Bhats did not leave Kashmir despite the murder of Dulari’s husband in the early 1990s. Over time, the family’s wounds healed, but Dulari never let him come. “Muslims and Hindus suffered in the early 90s and she never held a grudge against any community,” said Chunni Lal, her relative who came to attend the funeral.
Kulgam bonhomie closely follows the tragic murder of Rahul Bhat and a series of targeted attacks on minority members, non-local workers, police personnel and politicians.
Kashmiris of all colors condemned the incident and held protests and candlelight vigils to express their solidarity with Hindus over the selective killings.
The LG government of Jammu and Kashmir has promised government employment in Jammu to Bhat’s wife in addition to covering the education costs of his only daughter. The government tied down the Chadoora post house officer and ordered an investigation by a special investigation team into the murder to ease the wound of the Kashmiri Pandits. Community workers working in the valley, however, want the government to relocate them to Jammu until full security is imposed on them.
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