J&K Govt Wants Amarnath Yatra Cut Short

12 June 2008

Srinagar: Kashmir’s legislators, led by governor Lt Gen (retd) SK Sinha, have locked horns with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) over the duration of the annual Amarnath Yatra. The house committee on environment has asked the SASB to follow the basic religious scriptures and shorten the duration of the Yatra from two months to 15-20 days in order to make the pilgrimage more meaningful, and also help preserve the ecology of the area. “Mahant Dipendra Giri, the custodian of the holy mace, has been saying that the duration of the Yatra should be reduced and that it should be organised during the Raksha Bandan. We have told the SASB to shorten the duration to the minimum manageable limits as per the religious scriptures. We will be meeting again before Yatra to finalise the details,” said Dr Mustafa Kamal, who heads the house committee. The 21 member house committee met here to discuss the fallout of the forest land transfer by the government to the SASB. “We have told the SASB that there is no logic for the extended Yatra period. When the ice lingum melts there is no point in continuing the Yatra,” said Dr Kamal. This year the Yatra will last two months starting June 16, culminating on the Raksha Bandan day when the Mahant (chief priest) will carry the holy mace to the cave shrine. SASB has reacted cautiously to the report. “The meeting was inconclusive. The members are first visiting the site to take stock of the situation,” said Madan Mantoo, director, communication and public relations, Raj Bhawan. Mantoo however reiterated that all necessary measures will be taken to maintain the ecology of the Yatra area including erecting temporary shelter huts and other utility services. This year the SASB expects five lakh pilgrims to visit the cave shrine during the two months. Last year three lakh pilgrims visited the shrine during the same period.