June 29, 2022 6:40 pm

Pilgrims’ Progress

WITH the annual Amarnath yatra set to begin on June 30, the government is pulling out all stops to ensure a peaceful pilgrimage. The yatra is taking place after a two-year gap due to the Covid-19 pandemic which made it impossible to hold large gatherings. So, the government’s effort is to make up for the suspension of the last two years by holding a successful pilgrimage this year. And to this end, the beefing up of security remains a top priority.  And rightly so. Holding the yatra in a troubled region like Kashmir remains a major challenge for the administration. Security measures are thus unprecedented. All the peaks leading to the holy cave from Pahalgam and Baltal have been occupied by the security forces to facilitate the yatra. Security forces have set up temporary posts on these peaks. The government is also involving the political class as the Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha’s invite to the heads of political parties in the union territory shows.

Over the years, the yatra has gained immense spiritual, economic and political significance. Underlining this, the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, P K Pole recently said that the yatra  is not mere a pilgrimage but a major economic push to J&K’s economy.  The government, he said,  expects Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 crore revenue from 6 to 8 lakh pilgrims, who would visit tourist destinations as well. Each pilgrim, Divisional Commissioner said, stays in Kashmir for a week and spends at least Rs 35000. It is true, thousands of people have come to depend on yatra for their livelihood.

At the same time, the pilgrimage has a huge spiritual significance for Hindu community in J&K and across the country. Muslims in Kashmir Valley have always ensured that pilgrims are treated like their valued guests. The yatris have always been welcomed by the local people. Even during  the times of unrest when the Valley was engulfed by the unprecedented protests, the yatra passed off peacefully. When stones and bullets flew around on the streets, the buses carrying pilgrims to the holy cave shrine operated unscathed. Amid the reigning chaos,  the people have exhibited concern and empathy for their  pilgrim guests and ensured they are spared of the mayhem on the streets. In 2008, when the yatra itself became a subject of controversy after transfer of the 100 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, bringing hundreds of thousands people out on the streets, the pilgrimage itself went smoothly, even when sometimes the busloads of yatris ran into the agitated gatherings of angry youth. This year also, the yatra, as always, will receive the support of people of the Valley. Here’s to a spiritually-enriching, peaceful yatra.

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