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Around 5,000 Kashmiri Pandits leave for Kheer Bhawani Mela in Kashmir amid tight security

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NAGROTA (J&K): More than 5,000 people, mostly members of the Kashmiri Pandit community, started their journey from here on Wednesday for the annual Kheer Bhawani Mela in the Kashmir Valley amid tight security, officials said.

The Kheer Bhawani Mela, celebrated on Zeisht Ashtami, will take place on June 14 at the shrines of Tulmulla in Ganderbal, Tikker in Kupwara, Laktipora Aishmuqam in Anantnag, Mata Tripursundri Devsar in Kulgam, and Mata Kheer Bhawani in Manzgam.

The four-day pilgrimage started on Wednesday with Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) Ramesh Kumar, Relief Commissioner Dr Arvind Karwani and prominent Kashmiri Pandit leaders flagging off the journey from Nagrota in the outskirts of Jammu city.

Singing devotional songs and chanting mantras, the devotees left in 176 buses for the five renowned shrines in the Kashmir Valley.

“Over 5,000 Kashmiri Pandits left for Kashmir to take part in Kheer Bhawani Mela. They have left Nagrota early today in 176 buses amid tight security arrangements,” Relief Commissioner Dr Arvind Karwani told PTI here.

He said the pilgrims would halt at Ramban for lunch and asserted that strict security measures have been taken for the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.

About the recent terror attacks in Jammu, a devotee said, “We do not fear these terrorist attacks. How long will we remain in fear? We have Mata’s (deity’s) protection.”

Kusum Pandita, who is going to Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine in Manzgam, said that instead of being fearful they are enthusiastic about participating in the pilgrimage.

This year, an estimated 80,000 migrant Kashmiri Pandits from various parts of India and abroad are expected to visit the five renowned temples in the Valley during the annual fair.

The Jammu region witnessed three terror attacks in as many days since Sunday.

Last Sunday, terrorists fired at a bus carrying pilgrims from Shiv Khori temple to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra, causing the vehicle to veer off the road and fall into a deep gorge in Reasi, killing nine and injuring 41.

In Doda district, five troopers of Rashtriya Rifles and a special police officer were injured when terrorists attacked a joint check post in the upper reaches of Chattergalla on the Bhaderwah-Pathankot road.

In Kathua, terrorists attacked a village near the International Border on Tuesday evening and injured a civilian. During a subsequent search operation, one terrorist was killed while efforts were being made to flush out the other holed-up terrorist who is believed to have infiltrated from across the border.

Early on Wednesday, a CRPF jawan was critically injured in a firing by a terrorist holed up in the village in Kathua. (PTI)

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