Around 26 years ago, Sita Ram Sokhal left his business in Srinagar following eruption of armed struggle in Kashmir. Over two-decades later when he returned, he got back the possession of his shop and business worth 250 million Indian rupees—3.66 million U.S. dollars—at Srinagar’s centre Lal Chowk, courtesy the Muslims traders’ community.
Sokhal (80) is proprietor of Kashmir’s famous Shakti Sweets. In 1990s, he like many other non-Muslims left Kashmir on the onset of armed conflict. Before leaving, Sokhal handed over the control of his shop ‘Shakti Sweets’ to his employees who ran the enterprise for 26 years down the line.
In 2015, after witnessing improvement in the situation, Sokhal family decided to return and take over their property. But then it was not so easy. The caretakers of the business—who had managed it for a long time—were unwilling to return it to Sokhal.
Unable to get back his business, Sokhal’s finally approached Regal Chowk Traders’ Association who within a period of 5 months arbitrated the matter and handed over the possession of the property to the owners.
“It was the Muslim brothers who made it possible for us to return and get back our ancestral business honorably,” said an elderly Sokhal who is now handling the operation of Shakti Sweets along with the family.
He said there was never a bad blood between Muslims and Non-Muslims even during 1990s at the peak of militancy. “Today some people are trying to malign Muslim community of Kashmir blaming them for exodus of the non-Muslims, but it is a white lie,” states Sokhal who vividly remembers how the situation was created in 1990s by “certain elements to create a wedge in the society.”
“Confectionary business is in our blood, our ancestors were invited by Maharaja Pratap Singh to Kashmir and since then we are in the business of sweets manufacturing in Kashmir. But 90s was a tough time for everybody and it was the time when I along with my family left, but Kashmir was always in our heart. It is place we call home and without it we are incomplete,” he said.
“I was born here and wish to die on this land,” he states.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Secretary General, Regal Chowk Traders Association, Farhan Kitab said that Sokhals approached the association on May 1, 2015 and on November 1, 2015 the business along with the shop at prime location worth estimated Rs 25 crore was handed over to them.
“It is a pride for us to show the world that how Muslims are ready to help Hindus who had to leave Kashmir due to various reasons. It is an example of brotherhood and communal harmony which is in the blood of Kashmiris,” Kitab said, adding that they ensured the rightful owner of the property would get their due.