Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Devi Angan Conundrum

 Hari Parbat Hill Map, Drawn on a Shawl, 1850s.
Information that is easily available online: 


In 1930s post-communal violence, Kashmiri Pandits laid claim on whole Hari Parbat (land around it was called "Devi Angan") as their religious site. The claim was rejected by Glancy Commission even though they accepted it as Hindu land. The process was thought to be too inconvenient for majority community and prone to raise communal tension.


Info. not often mentioned (however recalled by poet Zareef Ahmed Zareef):

Decades later (in 60s-70s, exact date not known) Jia Lal Nagri associated with the temple came up with a plan to distribute (retained trunctated) empty "Devi Angan" land around the temple among needy people. According to the plan if 10 plots were carved out of the land, the distribution was to be in this proportion: 2 were to be given to a Muslim, 1 to a Pandit, every 6th to a Sikh.

Hari Parbat Temple (left). 1958
via personal collection: ‎Satinder Singh Sandhu‎


Info. not easily available ( told in "Crisis in Kashmir" (1991) by Pyarelal Kaul) and not often mentioned: What still happened in Kashmir:

In May 1972, Pujaris of the temple were attacked by "unknown assailants". One of the Pujari died. The temple committee wanted to build a wall around its land to keep it safe. There were forces at work who would not allow it. Even official permission was not given. Meanwhile the temple committee setup a fence around the land. The land was still not safe. The chowkidar of the land was harassed by people till he left the job. A Sikh guard, a former policeman was hired to keep watch. This man also left the job under pressure. Then a Muslim man was hired, he too was harassed till he also excused himself. To keep the land safe, the temple committee planted vegetables on the land. One night, someone let loose cattle on the land. Then the committee landed fruit trees on the land, one night someone uprooted all the trees. In all this, the pilgrims still arrived everyday to Parbat like they had for centuries, circumambulating the hill, they worried a bit, but went about their prayer rituals as usual. When on action was taken by goverment, only then the actual land grab around the temple started. Bagh-e-Ram Singh which fell on the traditional Parikrama route around the temple was also grabbed. Now the pilgrims couldn't even circle the hill using the old routes. They kept their heads down, took other routes, prayed, returned to their homes. This went on till 1983 and later.

Chakreshwari Temple on Pradyumna hill/Hari Parbat.
Other Shrines also visible
 Drawn on a Shawl, 1850s. 


Post 90, the land was still getting grabbed. This was happening with other temples of Kashmir too. Pujaris (often non-Kashmiris) were bribed, temple committees subverted, deals done, "land leased", land sold and money made. 

Dome of Chakreshwari Temple getting constructed.
inaugurated by Laxman Joo 
1961-62
via: Anil Bhat
[Bharat Wakhlu adds: My father Mr. O.N. Wakhlu designed the shell structure. Supervision of the contractor’s work was done by Mr. A.N. Thussu, who became Chief Engineer a few years later.
 He was an ardent devotee of Swami Lakshman Joo. The year should be 1963-64]


Post 2000, when new Pandits tourists started arriving "home", cut-off from the land, its bloody history, most not even aware what the place waslike a few decades ago, the tourist Pandits quietly arrived at the temple, claimed the stairs, deliberately avoiding Muslim majority lanes of Parikrama route, said their prayers and marvelled at the beautiful view of the sad city from the hill.


The iconic gate of the temple.
Post construction.
1961-62
[Bharat Wakhlu adds: The gate was already there. Used to be wooden earlier. ]


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