PDP Backs Geelani On Handing Amarnath Yatra To Kasmiri Pandits

PDP Backs Geelani On Handing Amarnath Yatra To Kasmiri Pandits

2 September 2012
India Today


Srinagar: People's Democratic Party has come as an unlikely ally of pro-freedom hardline Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani extending its support to the latter's demand of handing over affairs of Amarnath Yatra to local Kashmiri Pandits. 'There is no doubt in my mind about Geelani's proposal. The Amarnath yatra used to be Kashmiri Pandits affair and it should be given back to them. They should be asked, their views should be respected and they should be allowed to run the affairs of Amarnath yatra,' said PDP's national spokesman Dr. Sameer Koul. He said at present there were a few Kashmiri Pandits in Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). 'But their views don't matter to the SASB,' Dr Koul said. He said ethos of yatra would return only when Kashmiri Pandits would take its charge. 'Like Khirbhawani Mela where Kashmiri Pandits go inside the shrine and offer prayers while Muslim aides assist them,' he added. The ruling National Conference played cautious and refused to comment on the issue. On Saturday Geelani demanded that SASB be disbanded and the affairs of the Amarnath Yatra be handed over to the Kashmiri Pandits. In 2000 National Conference government enacted the law constituting the SASB. On March 17, 2004, the SASB extended the Yatra to two months from 15 days. In 2005, the then chief minister objected to the SASB's move to increase the Yatra duration. The SASB, however, described government opposition as interference into a religious matter and refused to oblige the government. Geelani alleged that the annual pilgrimage has been turned into an 'expression of communal aggression devoid of religious piety.' 'We demand that SASB should be disbanded as it has been turned into a state within the state with all non-local Hindu members under the chairmanship of a non-local Hindu Governor dictating terms to the helpless puppet state rulers,' Geelani alleged. Geelani said before the onset of insurgency in Kashmir few sadhus would take out the 'chhadi mubarak' from Akhara building in Maisuma upto Amarnath Cave and Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims would greet them. He said 12000 Hindus including Pandits, performed yatra in 1989. 'This year 6,30,000 pilgrims visited the cave,' Geelani said. He said duration of the pilgrimage and the number of visitors should be restricted to avoid environmental disaster. He said if pilgrimage to the Gangotri in BJP ruled Uttrakhand is regulated for environmental concerns and only 150 devotees are allowed per day to the site, why are the same concerns being overlooked in Kashmir.