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July 06, 2008
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July 06, 2008

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Home > 2008 Issues > July 06, 2008


Amarnath land allotment controversy

The allotment of 100 acres forest land in Kashmir to the Amarnath Shrine Board for construction of temporary structures for the nearly half million yatris has kicked up an uproar in the Valley. The controversy was started by the PDP deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig who said that the land was sanctioned because some Congress ministers threatened otherwise to block the Jammu-Srinagar highway project. Now it has become an issue for the terrorists to take to streets. Not that the terrorists need an issue. They are out to destroy the social fabric and create mayhem.

That the allotment of land to one of the holiest Hindu shrines in India should become a controversy at all speaks volumes for the political milieu in the country. The pilgrims who go to Amarnath brave not only the harsh weather conditions and hazardous roads, but they risk their lives. Several attacks on the yatris have been launched in the past by terrorists and hundreds have been killed. And yet, the number of devotees aspiring to go there has only swelled. If at all, it seems to have strengthened the resolve of the Hindus to keep the centuries-old tradition alive.

The Amarnath cave temple is not separate from the history of Kashmir or Kashmiriyat that the separatists claim to uphold. Amarnath Yatra used to be a part of Kashmiri tradition and Muslims too joined it with devotion. A Muslim family still earns a part of the offering in the shrine, as a reward for their devotion to Amarnath.

Every city in India boasts of a Haj house where facilities are extended to the yatris of the Haj pilgrimage. The land for each of these has been provided by the state and grants have been given for their construction. During every Haj season, the airports make special arrangements. Thousands of crores of taxpayers' money is spent on it. Nobody objects to it.

Only a year ago, the BJP government in Rajasthan allotted prime land in Jaipur, near the airport for the Haj house and funds for its construction. No one heard a murmur of protest from the Hindus on the government largesse. Every pilgrim, whatever his faith, is respected in this country.

This is not the place for counting the good deeds and the bad reciprocations. This occasion calls for the condemnation of an attitude, not only of the separatists but also of the so-called political parties committed to the values of democracy and secularism enshrined in our Constitution. To say that the PDP is raking up this issue with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections is viewing the matter in too simplistic terms. The design is more sinister. They want to erase the Hindu heritage of Kashmir. PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter have earlier also demanded that the Amarnath Yatra should be held at abeyance for ?sometime?. They play crass communal politics. Few months ago they demanded Pak currency in Kashmir. They often work hand in glove with the separatists. And they happen to be the bosom friends of Sonia Gandhi. The CPM and the NC are not far behind in stoking communal divide in the Valley.

The terrorists who have taken to the streets and fasts unto death for ?saving? the forests should actually take up the cause of vanishing forests of Kashmir at the hands of the vandals in the state. Acres of forest lands are being cleared to reap timber which is being smuggled outside the state, according to reports. These protesters were not seen in action when recently a bear and then a leopard which had strayed out of their habitats were roasted alive and stoned to death by a mob in Kashmir. Nor are they protesting the stink that the Dal Lake, the pride of Kashmir, has become. So much for environmental activism. They are the real enemies of development and Kashmiriyat.

These terrorists had no qualms when they occupied the homes of Kashmiri Hindus who had been driven away. In fact it is the fear of having to part with these properties that is goading them into opposing the return of the Hindus to the valley.

The shouting brigade of the secularists, the Azmis, the Akhtars and the various shades of communists are conspicuously silent. The CPM in its new image as the Communist Party of India (Muslims) and the Congress Party whose leader claims a special bonhomie with the Muftis have not reacted yet. The yatris, camping in Jammu, have taken the initiative in demonstrating against terrorists. The PDP is threatening to pull out of the government over the issue, hoping that its communal credentials would be strengthened. The National Conference is playing the proverbial cat on the wall.

Now, it is imperative to send out a message that Hindu shrines are beyond politics. If the coalition government led by the Congress in the state yields, it would send a wrong signal to the nation. Coming in the series of minority appeasement policies of the UPA, it would only be showing it as yielding to the pressure of the separatists. It would augur ill for the secular fabric of the nation.

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