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Unattended Kashmiri Pandit temple/shrine property be protected by state, orders J&K HC

Srinagar, July 10, 2024
In a judgement of far-reaching consequences, the J&K and Ladakh High Court has ordered that Kashmiri Hindu temples/shrines left unattended and vulnerable to encroachments and land mafia be protected by the state.

Renowned advocate, Mohsin Qadri, senior additional advocate general of J&K represented the state in this case. Senior advocate C.M. Koul represented the petitioners through virtual mode.

Delivering a landmark judgement, Justice Sanjeev Kumar has allowed a petition by the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community and directed the district magistrate of north Kashmir Ganderbal district to preserve, protect and maintain two Hindu religious shrines namely ‘Asthapan Devraj Bharav’ situated in Nuner village of the district and ‘Vidhushe’ shrine and to take requisite steps under the J&K Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distress Sales) Act 1997.

The petitioners had also raised a grievance against unscrupulous elements over the encroachment at the only cremation ground in Ganderbal district for the local Hindu community.

The petitioners held that after the migration of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, including the Ganderbal district in 1990, respondents number 5 and 6, who had themselves also migrated out of the Valley, had nothing to do with the management of these shrines, but had encumbered upon these by leasing them out to respondents number 7 and 8.

The petitioners held that respondents 5 and 6 in connivance with respondents 7 and 8 have destroyed, encroached upon and encumbered the shrine properties.

The high court order said, “Without going into the rival claims of the petitioners as well as respondents 5 and 6 to manage the shrines and its properties, suffice it to say that the District Magistrate, Ganderbal, in whom the migrant properties stand vested after the commencement of the Act of 1997, shall immediately take over and protect, preserve and manage both shrines and properties attached thereto.”

“He shall also initiate appropriate steps to ensure that all or any kind of encroachment made on the temple properties including the cremation ground is removed within a period of eight weeks from the date copy of this order is served upon him,” the order said.

“So far as the temple property under lease with the respondents 7 and 8 is concerned, admittedly the lease period has expired. There shall be no further extension of the lease and the property shall be taken over by the District Magistrate, Ganderbal.

Any party feeling aggrieved of any encroachment on the aforesaid property by any person including the petitioners and respondents 5 to 8, shall be free to bring it to the notice of the District Magistrate, Ganderbal, for appropriate action,” the order said.

This judgement is likely to protect and determine the fate of scores of such Hindu religious properties in Kashmir that have remained in disuse and thereby became vulnerable to encroachments by greedy encroachers and influential land mafia.(Agency)

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