LIKE every year, this year too the annual Amarnath Yatra has led to squabbles. Though the Yatra is beginning June 11, the Muslim descendents of Botta Malik clan that discovered the Amarnath cave in south Kashmir'sPahalgam resort some 300 years ago and Amarnath the Shrine Board have crossed swords over the share of offerings made at the shrine in the snow-clad Himalayan mountains.
The Shrine Board has given an offer of one-time settlement income equivalent to last 10 years of donations to the Malik clan. The Maliks have rejected the offer accusing the Board, headed by Governor, S.K. Sinha, of ?politicking the yatra and giving them a disgraceful ouster?. The Malik clan had been holding all controls of the offerings made at the shrine for years. However, an act was passed by J&K Legislative Assembly in 2000 and the Amarnath Yatra Shrine Board was constituted on the pattern of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine.
The rights of the people involved in the Yatra were abolished and one-man tribunal was formed to rehabilitate all the people involved in the Yatra. However for the past five years, the one-third of all the donations by the pilgrims had been given to the descendents of Malik and the rest to the trust, which manages the cave shrine. But this year the Board has asked them for one-time settlement.
According to an ancient tale, Botta Malik, a Muslim shepherd was given a sack of coal by a sadhu and upon reaching home he discovered that the sack contained gold. Overjoyed, Botta Malik rushed back to look for sadhu to thank him.
Muftis and Amarnath Board have once again come against each other. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti accused the Board of dislodging the poor Muslim ponywallas and pithus of Kangan and Pahalgam areas of their earnings by imposing several restrictions on them.
Ghulam Qadir Malik, President Founders and Beneficiaries of Amarnath Cave, said, ?They will pay money and dislodge us from the affairs of the Yatra. This is a unique place in the world where two religions mingle with each other. It'sthe sign of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood, but some vested interests want to end it. We?re not doing it for money only, we have emotional attachment with it, ?he said.
Director, Public Relations, Amarnath Shrine Board, Madan Mantoo, however said, Governor Sinha has time and again said holding the Yatra is impossible ?without the support of majority community and there is no question that they have been sidelined. This is the ruling of the tribunal as followed in case of beneficiaries of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. There is no religion involved in it. The money of Maliks is lying with Shrine Board.?
While this continues, Muftis and the Amarnath Board have once again come against each other. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti accused Board of dislodging the poor Muslim ponywallas and pithus of Kangan and Pahalgam areas of their earnings by imposing several restrictions on them. She said the Board is politicking the issue under the influence of some forces.
The Board authorities for security reasons have asked the ponywallas and pithus to register themselves with authorities on payment of Rs 2000 fee.
The locals however resent it saying that majority of the people could not afford the fee.
The Board in reaction to Mehbooba'sstatement accused her of dragging the office of the Governor, the constitutional head of the State, adding that PDP president'sstatement would affect the tourism traffic and sour the relations between local people and the pilgrims. It must be mentioned here that PDP and Governor S.K Sinha have had rows over the Yatra for the past three years.
However security forces have already defused a powerful, pre-planted explosive device at Chandanwari, which is part of the 45-km-trek route from Pahalgam to the cave shrine of Amarnath.