Tension Brews In Jammu & Kashmir Over Amarnath Yatra19 June 2010
Srinagar: Battle lines are drawn once again between the Hurriyat hardliners and Hindu groups over the duration of this year annual Amarnath pilgrimage starting July 1 in Jammu and Kashmir. Leading the charge is Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who has revived the ghost of agitation by calling for shorter duration of pilgrimage for “saving the fragile environment” in the Himalayas. “Duration of pilgrimage should be restricted to 15 days from two months. Increased duration of the yatra is causing serious damage to the fragile environment of the area. We are not against any religion or the yatra, but destroying environment and culture in Kashmir serves the interests of India,” he said. Situated in a narrow gorge at the altitude of 3,888 meters, the holy Amarnath cave is 44.8km from Pahalgam. The Pahalgam - Holy cave trek is covered in four days. The new Baltal-Holy cave route, discovered recently, is now preferred by the pilgrims since it is shorter though steeper than the ancient route. His diatribe has pressed the raw nerve of Hindu groups in Jammu. “If any body tries to disrupt or create impediments in the yatra, he will be given befitting reply,” warned Leela Karan Sharma, former convener of Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti (SASS). “If people want us to lead the charge, we will not hesitate in launching an agitation. I suggest Geelani not to poke his nose in our religion, otherwise it could backfire,” said Brigadier (retd) Suchet Singh, convener of SASS.