Jammu: With coronavirus cases continuing an upward trend across Jammu and Kashmir, the Shri Amarnath Barfani Langars Organisation (SABLO) has suggested the cancellation of the upcoming annual pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre-high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas.
The 42-day yatra was scheduled to commence from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 23, but the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) headed by Lt Governor G C Murmu has said the appropriate decision on it would be taken after a fresh review of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak in the near future.
On April 22, the SASB had announced the cancellation of the yatra due to the coronavirus pandemic but the statement was later “cancelled and withdrawn”.
The traditional ‘pratham pooja’ (first prayer) for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage was held here on June 5, the ceremony which normally marks the start of the yatra.
According to sources, the SASB is planning to undertake the yatra in the last week of July for a short duration of 15 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The SASB is contemplating conducting the yatra from July 21 to August 3 for a short period of two weeks. Even if shrine board takes such a decision, we are ready to render our services as in the past, but for the safety and security of yatris in particular and all other stakeholders in general, we once again like to apprise our strong apprehensions about difficulties and grave threat involved in conducting the yatra amid the pandemic,” the SABLO said in a statement here.
The SABLO, a non-profit and non-funded association of ‘bhandara’ (community kitchen) organisations which are engaged in rendering various services on both routes like serving free food, distribution of blankets, night shelter and various other facilities to the yatris, said it had already suggested to the SASB in the last meeting on April 22 that the yatra should not be conducted this year in the best interest of the pilgrims and other stakeholders.
It said the organisation is ready to set up community kitchens at designated sites in case the board still decides and plans to conduct the yatra under the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the SABLO said a decision to undertake the yatra despite the prevailing situation would not at all be good for the pilgrims, administration, bhandaraswallahs and other stakeholders including police, security forces, labourers, ponnywallahs, porters and shopkeepers.
“It will put the lives of all into danger and will also create additional problems for all the stakeholders to render their services under this dangerous situation,” it said.
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