July 2017 News

Amarnath Pilgrimage On Decline, Numbers Dip & Dip

20 July 2017
Kashmir Monitor
Firdous Hassan

Srinagar: The 2016 unrest and the subsequent attack on Amarnath pilgrims have hit the Amarnath pilgrimage.As per the travel agents, the pilgrimage has been witnessing a decline in the last two weeks. As per the official figures, so far 2,10,729 pilgrims paid obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine till Monday. The travel agents, however, contest the number, saying the flow of pilgrims has declined considerably since the attack. President Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TAAK), Ibrahim Siah, told The Kashmir Monitor that only 20 per cent of the pilgrims have visited the cave shrine compared to the last year. 'Usually, we count pilgrims who visited either by air or road. But then there are many who march on foot to the valley, which the government might have included in the figure. As per my own calculation, some 50,000 yatris might have visited for darshan through travel agents,' he said. Siah said the pilgrims have been enquiring about their safety in Kashmir. 'Yatris feel that they will be unsafe in Kashmir. Actually the attack on yatris was given enough hype by the media, which restricted many from planning their visit or yatra to Amarnath. Besides, the leisure tourism has been almost negligible in the valley so far this year,' he said. The travel agents blamed the authorities for creating 'fear psychosis' among the people outside valley. 'We saw that prior Amarnath yatra, authorities issued statements about intelligence inputs over possible attacks on yatra, which was very unfortunate,' Siah said. Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) General Secretary, Farooq Kuthoo, said the fallout of 2016 unrest was still being experienced by the tourism sector. He said the sector has witnessed 'immense losses' in the last three years, as tourism inflow kept declining gradually. 'Though yatra didn't stopped after attack, but the number of pilgrims is very less. Already this year we had less expectation as the last year's unrest has forced many to think before visiting to Kashmir,' he said. Kuthoo said a huge chunk of tourists have chosen other destination over Kashmir. 'Obviously, many have changed their plans and had chosen other destination to spend their vacation,' he said. Last year despite unrest , as many as ver 2.20 lakh pilgrims visited to Amarnath cave, which was the least number of yatris received by Kashmir in a decade. In the backdrop of the attack, the Centre has asked the pilgrims to follow safety protocol and to cooperate with the administration.