Valley Separatists Demand For Shorter Amarnath Yatra, Rejected

4 June 2015
Times of India


New Delhi: The government has rejected demands by some separatists to curtail the duration of the Amarnath Yatra and said that the two month long annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine in Jammu & Kashmir will go ahead as scheduled. 'The yatra will go on as per schedule. It will start on July 2 and will continue for 59 days,' a home ministry official said in Delhi. The government's reaction came after separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Shabir Shah and others demanded curtailment of the duration of the Amarnath Yatra citing 'fragile environmental conditions' of the mountainous region. Sources in MHA also said that looking at the recent attacks by militants in the valley, extra security measures would be taken during the yatra. All security arrangements have been put in place and standard operating procedures (SoPs) will be followed for contingencies, the official said. The home ministry has sanctioned additional forces to ensure security during the pilgrimage. The ministry said it has taken a series of steps that include augmentation of mobile connectivity and making available satellite phones in designated places. BSNL is also working on augmenting VSAT capacity and increase in bandwidth. BSNL will also enhance number of base transceiver stations and their configuration to take care of congestion where pilgrims will be halting for night stay or en-route. In Srinagar, Union minister Jitendra Singh accused the separatists of politicizing the matter, saying there was scientific evidence to show that the pilgrimage can be held throughout the year. 'It (duration of Amarnath Yatra) is a question which has to be addressed scientifically. We have substantial geology survey reports and scientific evidences which show that you can have Amarnath Yatra throughout the year, of course by keeping checks on environment,' he told reporters. 'This two-month period is determined by the auspicious time... The dates have been finalized by them (Yatra Board) and we will not interfere in the religious part. They say this is the most auspicious period, but scientifically nowhere is it written as to when the yatra should take place,' Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, said. 'The environmental concerns are genuine but they (separatists) are trying to politicize the matter. Barring weather problems, there are no other issues,' Singh said while recalling that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, along with his newly married bride, had undertaken the yatra in the month of February or March. Singh, member of Lok Sabha from Udhampur constituency, said separatists rake up such issues every year before the commencement of the yatra. 'This is something which is happening year after year, particularly when Amarnath Yatra period is approaching, they try to rake up an issue and then get trapped into competitive politics,' he said. Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has identified camps located at the holy cave, Panjtarni, Sheshnag and Sangam as the camps where satellite phones and VSAT connectivity is crucial for the conduct and regulation of the yatra. A pilgrim can secure his or her pilgrimage permit through 87 selected branches of the J&K Bank, 305 branches of Punjab National Bank and 38 branches of YES Bank located across the country.