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No Jain temple was burnt in Kashmir: officials

Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: The temporary structure housing a Jain temple in a local hotel was not burnt by a mob but was dismantled as a local hotel's contract with a Mumbai-based travel agency which built the structure on its premises has not been renewed.

In the wake of reports in newspapers around India that the only Jain temple in Kashmir had been burnt by mobs leading the ongoing protests in the Valley, hotel and State officials told The Hindu that no such incident had taken place.

According to Ghulam Mohiuddin, manager of Silver Star Hotel in Lasjan on the outskirts of Srinagar, the temporary structure was built as per contract with Gem Tours and Travels, a Mumbai-based travel agency, which wanted to provide a place where Jain tourists from other parts of India could worship while visiting Kashmir.

“But the three-year contract ended and was not extended, so the structure was also dismantled,” he said. The temple was established to attract Jain tourists. “As the situation in the Valley worsened and the tourist inflow declined, the contract was not renewed and we thought there is no need for this,” he added. The 8x8 pre-fabricated structure was dismantled in the presence of the priest, Hans Raj, on August 10.

Mr. Mohiuddin categorically denied that the temple was burnt or destroyed by a mob. “This is just not true. It is a fact that a large mob passed through this area also but no one entered our premises so the question of touching the temple does not arise,” he told The Hindu. Before the hotel management decided to remove the structure, the owners of the travel agency were contacted through the priest Hans Raj, who hails from Uttar Pradesh. “The idols were removed and properly handed over to them when they arrived in Srinagar the next day,” he said, adding the rumours seemed to be a conspiracy to spread hatred against Kashmiris.

Deputy Commissioner (Srinagar) Meraj Kakroo also rubbished reports about the Jain temple being attacked. “The report about the burning of the temple is baseless and mischievous,” he said. He added that no proper temple existed and “as per our information, it was an internal arrangement made by the hotel owners.”

Members of the community said there is, in fact, no Jain temple in Kashmir. While there were 40-odd Jain families living in the Valley prior to militancy, only five have stayed back. “There is no Jain temple here, though a family has set up one in their house,” Amit Jain, a businessman, said.

Repeated attempts by this correspondent to get a response from Gem Tours and Travels drew a blank. However, a local news portal, Kashmir Dispatch, reported that a team from the Doshi family, which built the temple, flew in to Srinagar the day after it was dismantled. “They packed the idols in cardboard boxes and returned to Sabarmati,” it said. “It was not burnt and [the newspaper which said it was] will come out with a corrigendum,” the portal quoted Jyotin Doshi, Chairman of Gem Tours, as saying. “The structure was broken; we don't know by whom, we had a contract with the hotel for five years under which the temple was built on the hotel property,” he said.

“We don't want to create enmity and request everybody to stop thinking about the matter. We have now installed the idols in Ahmedabad and there is nothing more I can say on this,” the portal quoted Mr. Doshi as saying.

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