WHEN in the Kashmir Valley separatists and anti-national forces were busy in painting the slogan of ‘Go India, Go Back’ on the shops, roads and walls to hurt the nationalist sentiments, the nationalist were loudly calling for ‘Go India, Go Amarnath’ to defeat the separatist designs. As the Amarnath pilgrimage concluded, the patriots from across the country thronged the Himalayan cave shrine not only to pay obeisance to the stalagmite but also to prove that Kashmir belongs to India and Indians would never be deterred to visit a place which is theirs.
It was the second summer straight in row when turmoil was erupted in the Kashmir Valley exactly to coincide with the Amarnath pilgrimage.
Despite massive disturbances in Kashmir Valley throughout the 55 days long period of annual Amarnathji pilgrimage, a massive increase of 74,000 has been witnessed in the yatra in South Kashmir Himalayas this year as compared to last year.
On the day of Shravan Purnima, which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan, 4,56,411 pilgrims paid their obeisance at the Shri Amarnath cave shrine, which is second highest number in last 20 years. Interestingly, in 2008, a record number of 5,33,368 pilgrims had paid obeisance at the cave despite trouble in Kashmir and Jammu regions. This is the highest number of pilgrims recorded in one year ever.
In 2008, a controversy erupted on the issue of Shri Amarnath Yatra and the Jammu and Kashmir Valley burnt for months. The separatist forces had completely thrown life out of gear and weather was hostile but it must be remembered that number of pilgrims visiting the Amarnath shrine was highest ever of history in 2008.
In 2010, once again almost same situation had been created in Valley and it was very well expected that Yatra statistics would touch 2008 record. People drawn from across the length and breadth of India gave a damn to the separatist campaign and went on the pilgrimage. This has come in as a befitting reply to the separatists who wanted to scare the pilgrims away but it is the Indian courage which is not bothered about such campaigns.
During 2009, 3.81 lakh yatris had paid obeisance to the holy Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva. As 4.55 lakh yatris performed darshan this year by August 24, the last day of this year’s pilgrimage coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan, the yatra this year went up by 74,000 yatris as compared to last year.
According to sources, a massive increase of 74,000 yatris was quite significant in view of the fact that entire Kashmir Valley remained disturbed throughout 55 days long yatra period. Pilgrims from all parts of the country visited Amarnath shrine this year. Though majority of pilgrims were registered, some unregistered yatris, who reached forward base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal were allowed to proceed to the shrine. On spot registration was also done at Yatri Niwas base camp in Jammu.
First month of the yatra this year i.e. July witnessed heavy rush of pilgrims with 3.96 lakh yatris having darshan of the Ice Lingam in holy cave shrine. However, the rush started declining from August 1 with only 59,000 pilgrims visited the shrine during remaining period of 25 days.
The decline during second half of the pilgrimage was attributed to the fact that most of the people the intend to visit the shrine in the initial period of yatra when Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva is in full bloom. It starts melting slowly afterwards. The people continued to visit the cave shrine even when the Ice Lingam had completely melted.
This is the second highest number of pilgrims in a year since the yatra management was taken over by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in 2001. In 2001, 1.90 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance and number of pilgrims declined in 2002 when 1.10 pilgrims visited the holy cave.
In 2004, the duration of the pilgrimage,was increased from 30 days to 45 days and during that year 3.82 lakh pilgrims visited the cave shrine. In 2005, 3.88 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance to Lord Shiva’s cave. In 2007 the pilgrims number decreased when only 2.96 lakhs pilgrims visited the cave shrine.
Abrupt increase in number of pilgrims was recorded during Amarnath land row of 2008 when number of pilgrims crossed all the previous records and touched 5.33 lakh which was 2.37 lakh higher than 2007. Jammu and Kashmir remained peaceful during 2009 and number of pilgrims also declined to 3.81 lakh but this year the turmoil paradoxically increased the number of pilgrims which touched 4.56 lakh.
For the first time, the pilgrims remained connected to their houses even during the yatra with BSNL mobile phones. The BSNL had installed special towers on the two tracks for connectivity of the yatris.
The SASB had also installed three satellite phones with Camp Directors at Sheshnag, Panjtarni and Amarnath cave for the convenience of Board staff and pilgrims.
For the peaceful conduct of the yatra in wake of terrorists threats, a multi-tier security grid was provided by Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Jammu and Kashmir police (JKP) this year. The BSF secured the two routes of north and south Kashmir, while the CRPF and the State police guarded the base and transit camps on the pilgrimage routes. Later, the government had requisitioned more paramilitary forces as the CRPF was busy handling the law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley.