Congress Government has shamelessly surrendered to the Islamist and secessionist elements by rescinding the order that granted permission to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to put up temporary shelters on forest land for the pilgrims to the holy cave. Anti-national elements and secessionists indulged in street violence and even stoned buses carrying pilgrims. They have vitiated the atmosphere and sharpened communal polarisation by spreading canards and hurting Hindu sentiments. The chilling message to Hindus is that their presence? even for the short duration of the yatra?is unacceptable to people in the valley.
Instead of curbing the mindless violence perpetrated by highly inflamed mobs, the State Government bet a hasty retreat and announced that the autonomous Shrine Board that was set up in the year 2000 to manage the pilgrimage would no longer be involved in the exercise. The task was taken over by the ?secular? government. No effort was made to disabuse the public mind of falsehood spread by interested parties and jehadis. Baseless and provocative allegations went unchallenged by the Government. Nothing could be more absurd and stupid than the assertion that ?transfer? of forest land to the Shrine Board was part of the hidden agenda to settle Hindus in the valley to bring about a demographic change in Muslim majority Kashmir. An innocuous plan to provide some resting places to Hindu pilgrims has been mischievously portrayed as a conspiracy. The fact is that State Government order had merely granted permission to SASB to raise ?pre-fabricated structures only for camping purposes of pilgrims without going in for construction of permanent structures? on forest land and went on to clearly state that ?proprietary status of forest land shall remain unchanged?.
If one were to talk of demographic change in the valley, it was brought about two decades ago when hundreds of thousands of Hindus were forced to flee from their homes by the terrorists and secessionists. There is almost complete ethnic cleansing of the valley. Since then Kashmiri Pandits are forced to live as refugees in their own country. The Government miserably failed to ensure security and create a reasonably congenial atmosphere so that Kashmiri Hindus could return to their ancestral land. More than 20,000 Hindu refugees from Pakistan who settled in the state in 1947 have been denied state citizenship rights. Under the circumstances, how can any non-state Hindu even think of settling in the valley? Blatant lies were spread by fanatics to incite anti-Hindu and anti-national feelings among the people in the valley. Instead of calling a spade a spade, Lt. General (retd.) S.K. Sinha, who was till recently Governor of J&K, and Hindu outfits are being blamed for the trouble in the valley by the Congress and the ?secular? crowd.
So-called mainline political parties in J&K are no less guilty. PDP has all along drawn strength from separatist elements. In the last elections, the party emerged as the third largest party in the assembly with the clandestine support from secessionists. The party led by former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter Mahbooba Mufti is unfolding its vicious ?self-rule? plan that aims at weakening state'slinks with the rest of the country and ultimately realising the dream of an ?independent Kashmir ?. The PDP by withdrawing support from the Government sent a strong signal to separatists and secessionists that it is playing their game in the political arena.
Transfer of management of the Amarnath Yatra to an autonomous board in 2000 has never been smooth. Besides separatists, several other elements were irked by the decision. The Board regulated the money charged by porters and pony-owners to ensure that pilgrims were not exploited. Sections of civil servants who indulged in corruption and pocketed money allocated for providing facilities to pilgrims also resented the Shrine Board. At the political level too there was resistance. In the year 2004, SASB demanded that the period of yatra may be extended to two months and that the Board be allowed to use forest land to set up seven rest sites so that pilgrims could have access to sanitation, shelter and security. The then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed opposed the demands tooth and nail. The J&K High Court gave a landmark judgment in 2005. It held that the duration of the yatra would be decided by the Board and not by the Govenrment and ordered that the State should immediately permit the use of forest land to provide shelter to pilgrims. So, the permission to use forest land for providing facilities for pilgrims has judicial sanction. How can they call the permission ?illegal?? On the contrary, rescinding the permission is against the orders of the High Court and, therefore, illegal. Those who wish to pamper Muslims are not impressed. For them, Muslim sentiments based on falsehood are sacred while Hindu sentiments and safety is secondary.
While Muslim fundamentalists are celebrating their victory, Jammu is burning. Curfew was imposed and police resorted to firing on Hindus protesting against the Government capitulation to jehadi elements. Nationalist forces are observing bandh and strikes not only in Jammu but also all over the country. Demands for pulling down Haj complexes and Haj terminals are being raised by enraged citizens. They want Haj subsidies to be withdrawn. Providing countless amenities to Muslim pilgrims and denying minimum facilities to Hindu pilgrims is gross injustice and is totally unacceptable. The Congress party will have to pay a heavy political price for its anti-Hindu policies. Governor N.N. Vohra, who is ex-officio chairman of the SASB, has deeply hurt Hindu sentiments by handing over the management of the yatra to the State Government. His action, obviously taken at the instance of his political masters, has undermined his credibility he had so assiduously built over decades as an able and honest civil servant.