Srinagar: Clashes between ponywallas and community kitchen operators at Baltal Base camp on Friday forced suspension of the Amarnath Yatra even as Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra and state government appealed to both parties to maintain peace for smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.
At least 37 persons, including few security force personnel, were injured in the clashes that broke out this morning after a dispute between pony owners and those running community kitchens followed by the alleged high-handedness by CRPF personnel.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah deputed senior officials in the area, over 100 kilometres southeast of Srinagar, and the situation is under control, officials said.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to the Chief Minister over phone about the violence and asked him to take all necessary steps to bring the situation under control.
The incident took place at Dumail near Baltal area under Sonamarg, a picturesque tourist spot. An altercation broke out between `langarwallahs`, who run community kitchens for the pilgrims, and local pony owners, who take them through the rough terrain to the holy cave shrine.
However, the quarrel soon took a violent turn as the local unit of CRPF intervened.
While 22 persons, mostly pony owners, were admitted to various hospitals with injuries, three others were discharged after treatment, police officials said.
A CRPF official, while denying the allegation of highhandedness by its jawans, said 12 of its personnel sustained injuries in their efforts to restore order.
The official also denied the allegation that CRPF personnel had set the tents on fire, saying there was a blast due to explosion of cooking gas cylinder which led to fire in other tents in the camp.
While officially police said that they had registered a case, sources said as many as three CRPF personnel were detained by the local police.
Governor NN Vohra discussed the matter with the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Vohra and Omar deputed several high ranking officials including the CEO of SASB, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and IGP Kashmir to ensure that order is restored at the earliest.
"The Governor also spoke to the President of SABLO, the apex Langar Organization, Vijay Thakur, and urged him to ensure restoration of harmony," a Raj Bhavan spokesman said.
Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Sham Lal Sharma also visited the base camp at Baltal and took stock of the situation.
Sharma interacted with the officials of SASB, langerwalas and poniwalas and obtained the necessary feedback about the incident.
Asking the service providers to maintain peace and order to ensure smooth yatra, the minister also directed the police and civil administration to keep close watch on the situation to ensure smooth conduct of yatra and safety of pilgrims and all service providers.
The Minister also directed the administration to inquire into the matter and take stern action against the culprits as per the law.
Meanwhile, police said that yatra has been suspended in view of the violence and a convoy enroute to the cave shrine was stopped as a precautionary measure.
The yatra has been stopped at Nowgam-Tawahir tunnel area in Banihal belt as a precaution in view of the clashes between two groups of people at Baltal, police said in Jammu.
The pilgrims were not allowed to move into Kashmir via Jawahar tunnel from Banihal belt of Ramban district.