External Affairs

After Kartarpur, Mehbooba, Congress Leaders Bat for Sharada Peeth Cross-LoC Route

Pak PM Imran Khan said last week that although India was not willing to hold talks, his country would like to facilitate visits for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

New Delhi: After the launch of the Kartarpur corridor project, there are now more voices lobbying for a similar route across the Line of Control to access the Sharada Peeth in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On Saturday, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti wrote to Prime Mibister Narendra Modi and the Congress’s Saifuddin Soz issued a statement supporting the demand of Kashmiri Pandits to access the ancient temple and seat of learning at Sharda Peeth, located about 25 km from the Line of Control.

In her letter, Mufti said a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits recently asked her to plead their case to the Central government.

She described the Sharada Peeth as an “outstanding relic of Kashmir’s glowing history”.

“Though it generally connects the people here with their cultural and intellectual roots, for the Kashmiri Pandits it is an important place of pilgrimage which was frequented by them till independence,” she wrote.

She noted that “Kartarpur has encouraged the Pandit community to see a possibility of the pilgrimage to Shardapeeth in the same spirit”. This hope, she added, was “strengthened by the reported offer of Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. lmran Khan to allow it along with pilgrimage to Katas Raj”.

Also read: At Kartarpur Ceremony, Imran Khan Emphasises Cooperation, Says Army on ‘Same Page’Mufti said she was sure that Modi would “have this request considered on priority”.

Stating that this move would be welcomed by every citizen in Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti felt that this would help in addressing the “feeling of despondency in a major section of population”.

“It would fit very well in the vision of pulling J&K out of its miseries through diplomatic and political means away from death and destruction we witness with unending regularity,” Mufti said in her letter.

She had welcomed the Kartarpur corridor as a “new leaf in the painful history” of the subcontinent and hoped it was the “first step towards rediscovering avenues of peace and prosperity in our region”.

Earlier in the day, former Union minister for water resources Saifuddin Soz called on the governments of India and Pakistan to open both the Kargil-Skardu road and the route to Sharada Peeth “to honour the aspirations of the people of Kashmir and the people of Ladakh region”.

In a statement, Soz said “the demand of Kashmiri Pandit community for opening road to ancient Sharda Temple is very genuine and it would be a great gesture to respect the aspirations of the people to open this temple for devotees”.

Illustrating the importance of the site in Kashmiri history, he recalled that the 15th century ruler Zainul Abideen had crossed the “11000 feet high Razdani Mountain on foot to reach the Sharda Temple and ensure its safety”.

In an interaction with a group of Indian journalists in Islamabad on November 29, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was asked whether his government could consider opening a route to the Sharda Peeth.

Also read: Why Is Modi Not Accepting Pakistan’s Offer of Talks?Even as he noted that India was not willing to come to the table for any discussion, he replied that his country would like to facilitate visits for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

“As far as Hindu pilgrims are concerned, we will make their visits easier. We are also working to attract Buddhist pilgrims. We have discovered a 40-feet sleeping Buddha north of Islamabad… We are trying to increase religious tourism. There are Hindu sites in Pakistan like Katas raj…so we will certainly help.”

Pakistan on November 28 organised a ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor near the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in the presence of two Indian ministers. Two days earlier, Indian Vice-President also laid a foundation stone near the Gurudwara Dera Nanak Baba in Gurdaspur.

During the ceremony, the Pakistani prime minister made a strong pitch for taking forward the ‘Kartarpur spirit’ into resumption of bilateral talks.

Meanwhile, India has made it clear that there is no possibility of talks anytime soon.

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