Intro: By targeting langars in Amarnath Yatra, the real target of unruly elements in J&K seems to be CRPF
Violence erupted at Base camp of Holy Shri Amarnathji Yatra on early morning of July 18 resulting in massive destruction, arsoning and looting in protected base camp.
As per eye witness account and whatever information I could gather after reaching base camp at around 4 PM the same day, trouble started after news of alleged stabbing of a local youth by some langar worker was flashed. It was alleged that injured youth has been shifted to SKIMS Soura Srinagar, which, however proved incorrect later.
In the morning of the day news of violent protests at Domel area started pouring in. Protestors were specifically targeting langar volunteers and while moving ahead started ransacking langar pandals. Around 15 langar pandals in Domel area were damaged and workers beaten mercilessly between 6.30-8.30 AM by this violent crowd of locals. It is reported that very thin presence of Police personnel in Domel area could provide no resistance to these hooligans.
Unruly crowd of locals after getting inside the base camp started vandalising the Langar Pandals and manhandled the langar volunteers whosoever resisted. They went on to looting spree, inflicting extensive damage to equipments and infrastructure and cash boxes.
The Langar volunteers and pilgrims present at base ran for their lives and ultimately took shelter into 54 Bn CRPF base camps. Unruly mob of locals turned more violent and could not tolerate the protection given by CRPF personnels to these innocent volunteers and pilgrims; and started raising slogans against CRPF and pro J&K Police.
Meanwhile IG Kashmir and other Police and Paramilitary officers arrived on scene. While they were accessing and taking control of the situation a section of unruly locals again made an attempt to loot the nine big Langars inside base camp from back side (as rear portions of langars have stock godowns, generators and other things), stated looting the left over materials, put the langars on fire and fled towards higher mountains leading to Sonmarg Kargil High way.
I reached Baltal base camp at around 4 PM along with CEO and Additional CEO of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board. By the time 30 per cent of the camps were also burnt completely. Locals were on streets and the volunteers and pilgrims were confined in CRPF camp. Locals were demanding removal of CRPF. I could access the political agenda of some Kashmir centric parties in getting the demand of removing CRPF being propagated through this incident.
The volunteers and pilgrims stranded in the CRPF camp were frightened and wanted to leave safely from Baltal. I was told that even fire tenders were initially not allowed to reach near langars to control fire and only when fire spread in tents belonging to locals, fire tenders were allowed entry inside the camps and fire men were forced to restrict their operations to save tents only by unruly mob.
Administration seemed to be totally confused. Shrine Board officials were finding tough to convince any of the parties. Cabinet Ministers Shri Sham Lal and Mian Altaf also reached the spot, but no concrete effort was emerging. Only after long persuasions, Yatries struck in CRPF base camp were allowed to leave for their return journey at around 11 PM.
It was only after true picture was presented to Union Minister Dr Jitender Singh and SM Sahaye Additional DGP- J&K Police took charge of the situation and started confidence building and resumption activities on early morning of 19th July.
At present all nine langars inside base camp Baltal are totally gutted/ destroyed and their organisers have started leaving. A good number of tent owners have also packed their tents from base camp Baltal as they are not expecting any business in the absence of langars.
Yatra, though restored officially, have reduced to symbolic numbers, Baltal base camp is giving a look of town destroyed in war. —Rajesh Gupta After visiting Amarnath Base Camp, Baltal