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India Plans To Open Corridor To Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir For Pilgrimage

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Home Minister Amit Shah after he virtually inaugurated the Sharda Devi temple in Kupwara

Srinagar: The government will make efforts to open a corridor in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for Sharda Peeth pilgrimage on the lines of the Kartarpur corridor in Punjab.

The move will necessitate engagement with Pakistan and reopening of the Line of Control (LoC) at Teetwal in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara, which has been closed indefinitely after special status to Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped in August 2019.

The announcement was made by Home Minister Amit Shah after he virtually inaugurated the Sharda Devi temple at Teetwal in Kupwara district on Wednesday.

The temple has been built on the banks of the Kishanganga river along the LoC, which divides the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is considered one of the most revered religious sites in the subcontinent.

The ancient Sharda temple and the centre of learning, or Sharda Peeth, is located in Neelam Valley across the LoC in PoK.

“Ravinder Pandita has said that Sharda Peeth should be opened for pilgrims on the pattern of Kartarpur corridor. The government of India will definitely make efforts in this direction. There are no two opinion about it,” said Mr Shah.

Mr Shah said the inauguration of the temple is the beginning of an era and a step towards discovery of the Sharda civilisation and the Sharda script.

The construction work on Sharda Peeth base temple at Teetwal started after local Muslims handed over the land for construction of temple in 2021. They also remained part of construction of the temple and its inauguration on Wednesday.

“The reconstruction of Maa Sharda’s temple in Kupwara is a necessary and important step towards the discovery of Sharda civilization and promotion of Sharda script,” Mr Shah said.

Opening a corridor for pilgrimage in PoK will be the first major step to restore contact between the two sides following after Jammu and Kashmir became a Union Territory in August 2019.

There has been demand for opening Line of Control for pilgrimage by political parties and Kashmiri Pandit groups. Hopes of opening the route for Sharda Peeth rekindled in 2018 after then Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan indicated opening the corridor on the lines of the Kartarpur corridor.

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also wrote to PM Narendra Modi requesting him to open the pilgrimage route which was closed after the partition in 1947.

In 2005, India and Pakistan started a bus service between Srinagar-Muzaffarabad for divided families on both sides of Kashmir.

Cross LoC trade and the bus services have been stopped indefinitely since 2019.

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