Government, Hindu groups clash over Amarnath yatra

The VHP has declared that it would go ahead with the pilgrimage from June 15.

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government and Hindu groups seem to be heading for a clash once again over the Amarnath yatra. While the annual pilgrimage is scheduled for June 29, groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal want it to begin June 15.

The VHP has declared that it would go ahead with the pilgrimage from June 15 and has even started conducting its own registration process since last month, parallel to that undertaken by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

The registration done by the shrine board has touched 250,000 while Hindu groups are talking in vague terms of "lakhs of pilgrims" registered with them.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah`s remarks on Tuesday that his government will not allow the pilgrimage before June 29 has angered the Hindu groups.

"The Chief Minister is in the habit of making such provocative statements to please his constituency in Kashmir, and that too happens on the eve of the start of the Amarnath pilgrimage," VHP state president Rama Kant Dubey told a news agency.

Earlier, the VHP national secretary had said that the party would clear the tracks leading to the cave shrine -- located at the height of 3,888 meters in Himalayas in south Kashmir -- if the government is "incapable of doing so".

The two routes to the cave shrine devoted to Lord Shiva -- the shorter Baltal-Sangam route and the longer one from Pahalgam -- are covered with snow. At places, the snow cover is as thick as three to five feet.

Omar, however, was citing the track condition and the threat to the lives of the pilgrims due of the snow and vagaries of weather.

Bharatiya Janata Party national executive committee member Jitender Singh has pointed out that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of pilgrims.

The basic point of contention between the two sides is that the Hindu groups see a "design" in the "curtailment of yatra period from two months to one-and-a-half-months". The pilgrimage ends Aug 13.

The shrine board, however, maintained that the decision was guided purely by weather conditions and the safety of the pilgrims.


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