Srinagar: Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani Thursday protested what he said was construction of a metalled road through north Kashmir forests for pilgrims to the Amarnath cave shrine. This was in violation of local forest laws, he claimed.
At a press conference Thursday at his Hyderpora residence, Geelani showed photographs of the road construction and threatened to launch a massive protest after the forthcoming Eid against construction of concrete structures on the yatra route and a metalled road for pilgrims.
He accused the state government of trying to remain in power by avoiding a confrontation with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the cave shrine and the annual Hindu pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir.
"SASB has become a state within a state and the local government is helpless before it," Geelani said.
The hardline separatist leader demanded that the SASB be abolished and the annual Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) management handed over to local Kashmiri Pandits. He said the pilgrimage could be limited to a fortnight, instead of its present duration of two months.
Geelani threatened to launch a massive protest after the forthcoming Eid against the SASB decision to construct concrete structures on the yatra route and lay a metalled road for pilgrims.
He said the state government did not even engage a lawyer to represent it before the Supreme Court, which took suo moto cognisance of the pilgrims` deaths during the yatra this year.