Why Geelani didnít object to yatra in PDP rule, asks Omar19 June 2010
The Daily Excelsior
TULMULLA (GANDERBAL): Hinting that hard line Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was in league with opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said it was sad that the separatist leader was raising objections to the duration of Amarnath yatra almost six years after it was extended. 'I wish Geelani had given this statement when (the duration of) Amarnath Yatra was extended. He kept quiet then as PDP was in power,' Omar told reporters after visiting the Khir Bhawani shrine here. Geelani had yesterday demanded that the Government should reduce duration of the Amarnath Yatra to its original schedule to just 15 days instead of present practice of two months as the prolonged pilgrimage was posing a threat to ecology of the Valley. The hard line separatist leader has threatened to launch an agitation, if the Government did not reduce the duration of the yatra which is scheduled to begin from July1. The Chief Minister said it was sad that Geelani was raking up the issue when the National Conference was in power. 'Now that we are in power, he is making these noises, which is regretful,' he added. Omar interacted with the Kashmiri Pandit devotees, who had come from various parts of the country to throng annual mela at the Sharika Devi shrine here. Asked about return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes in the Valley, he said a sense of security needed to be created for the minority community members to be able to return home. 'We are trying to get the youth to this place Ö. We have got a very good response to the employment package for Kashmiri Pandits announced by the Prime Minister. We want them to come back and stay in their homes,' he said. 'For about 4,000 jobs, we have received more than 16,000 applications from the KP youth. Some 2,000 posts have been filled up so far while screening process is going on for rest of the posts,' he added. Omar said transit accommodation was already in place at Mattan in Anantnag district and at Shiekhpura in Budgam district for those Pandits who want to return home. Underlining that confidence was slowly building among the Kashmiri Pandits to visit Kashmir, the Chief Minister said the highest number of devotees had visited the shrine this year compared to last few years. 'Kashmiriyat is being revived as is evident from the gathering of Kashmiri Muslims and the Pandit brethren here. There were attempts to harm the spirit of Kashmiriyat but those have failed. We are hopeful that everything will return to normal in Kashmir and the Pandits will be back,' he said. Meanwhile, majority of the large number of Kashmiri Pandits, who visited the shrine today, were hopeful of a better future for the State and Kashmir valley where people from all communities can live together in harmony and peace. 'This is a good gathering as we not only get to meet members from Pandit community, it also provides us a chance to catch up with our Muslim friends,' said Nanna Ji, a 45-year-old devotee. Nanna Ji said distances had cropped up between the Pandit and Muslim communities over past 20 years but gaps were now being bridged. 'We are moving towards peace and normalcy.' Twenty-one year old Rahul Raina, whose family left the Valley when he was just a toddler, said visits like these were rare opportunities for him to visit his motherland. 'Although I have not been able to visit my native village in Anantnag, coming here, we have been able to connect to our roots,' Raina said. Hilal Ahmad Sheikh, a flower vendor, gets nostalgic while talking about the importance of the Mela Khir Bhawani. 'I have come to sell flowers here but business is not the purpose of my presence here. The money I earn will be spent tomorrow but I will cherish the memories which I will make with my Kashmiri Pandit brothers during their visit,' Sheikh said.