Khajuria S Kant in Jammu
Even as the holy Amarnath Yatra this year has concluded on a reaffirming note from Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that it would provide augmented facilities for pilgrims in future and at the same time take full care of environmental issues, the annual pilgrimage has once again become the centre of controversy with ruling National Conference and separatists this time indulging in a competitive race and scoring points in opposing proposals that can facilitate the Yatra and offer some relief to pilgrims on arduous tracks.
Much hue and cry in valley against Supreme Court’s directive for the improvement of road to Shrine has once again exposed the mindset of Kashmiri Muslims towards annual Hindu pilgrimage in South Kashmir.
Not only separatists and their supporters but also the valley-centric mainstream political parties have joined hands to oppose the better facilities to the Amarnath pilgrims who visit in lakhs from different parts of the country to pay their obeisance to the holy Ice Lingum in cave shrine.
Separatists have now questioned the wisdom of the Supreme Court in directing the State Government to construct road to Amarnath cave before snow fall.
After NC's MP, GN Rattanpuri raked it up with stiff opposition to any move granting extension in the period of pilgrimage, Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq cautioned the government against converting the track leading to Amarnath Cave into a permanent road and contended any such step would not only lead to felling of lakhs of lush green forest trees, but could also lead to environmental imbalance in the area.
Addressing Friday congregation in Srinagar, Hurriyat Conference Chairman and separatists leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the SC direction is fraught with dangerous environmental consequences.” ..It would result in melting of glaciers and could trigger ecological disaster in the environmentally-sensitive region,” said Mirwaiz.
The separatists leader in a statement has questioned the wisdom and opinion of the apex court whose judgements are not only upheld by every authority of the country but even made as reference in many neighbouring countries.
The so-called Civil Society of Kashmir is also reacting against the directions of Supreme Court, as it has passed a resolution recommending the implementation of Nitesh Sengupta Committee Report, which recommended restricting the number of pilgrims, keeping in consideration the growing number of pilgrims, which was about 1 lakh at the time, when this committee was constituted and has crossed 6.20 lakh this year.
Alarmed and unnerved by the outcry, the State Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said in a reassuring tone that there were no plans of construction of hospitals or roads. What could be seen as a bid of the NC to arrest the growing unrest and concern from Hurriyat Conference, the Finance Minister even stated that the number of yatris to the cave shrine needs to be limited,
“The number of yatris that visit the shrine is too high and the deaths occurring were natural”, he said, adding the State Government is doing everything to facilitate the yatris. He said the matter is sub-judice and the high power committee will submit its report soon to the Supreme Court.
It has exposed the true face of Kashmiri separatists and their opposition to the Yatra. Separatists and a section supporting them have never welcomed the yatris though they welcome the tourist. This section with this mindset set the state on fire during 2008 Amarnath land row and is trying to do same when about 6 lakh yatris had visited the shrine this year, which is to the discomfort of this section. Bereft of logic this section is now telling SC the affect of ecologically disaster.
“The recent argument on reducing the number of pilgrims or the tenure of Yatra on the pretext of ecology and environment has been contended time and again by NC or separatists and they said the logic simply suggests that they must first announce restricting of tourist season to a month or so and also allow a far reduced inflow of tourist to Kashmir. “This step would also save the entire valley from getting polluted on a host of fronts….,” if they fail to do so their argument reflects and betrays some hidden agenda…not being on objective logic instead shows bias against the people belonging to one community…,” said state unit president of VHP Dr Rama Kant Dubey. “The utterings on one or the other pretext of saving environment are just excuses they seek to find at regular intervals… However we will not allow them to succeed in their intensions,” Dr Dubey said. If such resistance continues at the political front, we too along with other bodies would be forced to register protest and oppose with equal tenor, he said, adding that “this is a dangerous trend and VHP will arrest it. We can also follow the path of struggle for a cause for the benefit and facilities of pilgrims.”
VHP leader has blamed the SASB for creating this atmosphere in which, he said, Kashmir-based politicians have begun to rake up the issue on one or the other pretext. “SASB was created to function in an independent and autonomous manner for the benefits and betterment of the pilgrims…but it has been seen working under the influence of or at the behest of ruling parties and taking certain steps which only amount to creating confusion and ambiguity…..this is only to appease Kashmir-centric politicians whether mainstream or separatists…”.
In order to substantiate his point, the VHP leader said the SASB must govern and guide itself also as per the provisions of Article 46 of Indian Constitution, the spirit of which envisages right to freedom of religion, which makes it incumbent upon the Board to create conditions conducive for pilgrims in terms of augmented facilities. “Just like the government makes such facilities while undertaking Haj pilgrimage, on the same analogy the government must think and act for Amarnath pilgrims ….you cannot deprive any citizen in advanced age of wish to have darshan for want of proper facilities….,” the VHP leader observed.