Hindus begin risky Kashmir pilgrimage
1 July 2004
The News International
Jammu: Some 100 Hindu zealots left on Thursday for a shrine in troubled Kashmir without security in defiance of the government which said it would lack resources to protect the pilgrimage until mid-July. The activists, dressed in Hinduism's holy colour saffron, chanted 'Lord Shiva is Great!' in Jammu before boarding a procession of cars and a bus to the Amarnath cave, considered an abode of the god Shiva. 'We have defied the government schedule as Friday is an auspicious full moon,' said Rama Kant Dubey, who heads the Kashmir branch of the radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council. The Kashmir government has refused appeals to extend the pilgrimage to two months, saying troops would be stretched too thin as they are also fighting a freedom struggle. But the government announced on Thursday the pilgrimage would be lengthened by five days. Police said they would not stop the zealots. 'Since we have no instructions from the government we have neither stopped the pilgrims nor provided them security cover,' Jammu police chief PL Gupta said.