Probe launched into illegal lease of temple properties in Kashmir

Srinagar, Jul 11: Authorities have launched a probe into an alleged illegal lease of temple properties in Kashmir.

Sources said on directives of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, district development commissioners have formed special investigation teams in their respective districts to probe into an alleged illegal lease of temple properties in the valley.

“The SITs will find out where the temple properties have been leased out illegally or encroached in Kashmir and submit their report to the government following which necessary action will be taken,” a senior official said.

There are 952 temples in Jammu and Kashmir of which 700 are non-operational and most are in dilapidated condition.

Government has undertaken a temple renovation project as a confidence building measure so that the displaced Kashmiri Pandits could return to their homeland.

Pandits have thanked the Lieutenant Governor for initiating the probe and said that since the last 33 years no successive governments have taken any initiative to protect temple properties of minorities of Kashmir.

They alleged that despite repeated court orders, temple properties have been illegally given on lease or sold out.

“In the absence of Kashmiri Pandit community in the valley, a few selective people in connivance with the J&K government officials operated defunct temple Trusts in between 1989 till 2022 and sold out or leased out temple properties,” a Kashmir Pandit leader said.

At the same time there are many Kashmiri Muslims who are looking after and guarding temples in the valley for years.

One such example is at Zia Devi temple located at Bijbehara in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district where a Muslim family has been guarding and taking care of the temple since 1990. Similarly, in Srinagar’s Nishat area, two Kashmiri have been looking after the Gopi Tirtha Mandir.  They clean the temple grounds, look after the plants. Locals consider this shrine to be a symbol of Kashmir’s fraternal brotherhood.

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