This Article is From Sep 22, 2010

Beyond Kashmir politics: Hindu-Muslim brotherhood in times of crisis

Srinagar: In the Chinkral Mohalla of Srinagar, Bashir Ahmed Dar is getting ready to go out after days, in fact, weeks of curfew. It's the first time he is getting out of his home.

The city is still tense. But on Wednesday, Bashir can simply not stay in; he has to say a final good bye to friend and neighbour Kishan Lal Puri.

Bashir and Puri lived here for many years. As the divisions of religion and state grew more widespread in this small part of the Valley, the anger perhaps worked to strengthen the bonds of love.

Practically every resident of Chinkral came out to accompany Lal on his final journey.

"It is our tradition, it is our brotherhood. Muslims and Pandits live together, we have grown up together," Bashir said.

"Our Prophet Mohammad has taught us that guarding minorities is your sacred duty. We can risk our lives for their protection. We have protected them and we will protect them. Their daughters are our daughters," said Mohammad Shafi, a Muslim neighbour.

It's not just symbolic. While a few Pandits were called by the family to perform religious rites, all other rituals were done by the Muslims.

From arranging for firewood to organising transport, local Muslims ensured the Lal family faced no problems.

"You can see, they are Muslims and we are just 5-6 Pandits. They have done everything. We only performed religious rites. They organised vehicles, informed police and carried the body from home," said Cham Lal Matoo, Kashmiri Pandit living in the area.

At a time when Kashmir is going through its worst crisis, the people of downtown in Srinagar have once again reaffirmed the age old bond between Muslims and Pandits.