Why is it that, when my heart is filled with pride, and with a sense of contentment and comfort I lean on the pillars of my countrymen’s unity and harmony, they crumble to meaningless aspirations and optimism? The bulldozers fuelled by apathetic insanity and illogical insecurity raise these pillars of mine to the ground. With complete certainty I can say that these must be the feelings experienced by so many of us.
The issue of Land allotment to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) enraged the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The issue had evolved into a dirty political game in which the general public and the Amarnath Yatris were reduced to being mere pawns caught in deplorable circumstances.
Almost a month ago, on May 26, the Jammu & Kashmir General Assembly had arrived to a consensus of allotting 100 acres of land to the Shrine Board. Controversy caught fire when finally the transfer of 40 hectares of land at Baltal was announced on June 20. The land was meant for construction of temporary rest areas to facilitate smooth pilgrimage for the yatris. Displaying atrocious political dishonesty the PDP announced its disagreement with the decision and threatened that this action of the state government will have to face serious agitation.
Thus, the Amarnath Yatra was at the centre of a political clash in Jammu and Kashmir, and caught initially in the middle was the governor who heads the Amarnath shrine board. Senior Congress leader and former minister Ghulam Rasool Kar, while describing the land transfer a ploy to turn Muslims into a minority in Kashmir, said, “If the decision isn’t revoked, mass agitation will break out in the Valley.” The state Finance Minister Tariq Hameed Karra announced that if arm twisting techniques against the government need to be embraced, he would do that repeatedly to uphold “Kashmiriyat” or Kashmiri nationalism. Such statements made by our leaders sow the seeds of communalism and malign political ethos. Ideas like these expressed by the ‘people of the masses’ and them making un-called for inflammable and provocative statements, miserably ridicule harmony and harness mistrust and hatred among general public, and definitely are causes of extreme anguish for those who believe in amity among all and those who believe in living and letting live.
Supporters of separatists The Hurriyat and the PDP took to the streets and protested against the land transfer step taken by the State government. The Hurriyat believes that it is a conspiracy to settle non -local Hindus in the Valley. It seems that without giving situations any sort of rational thought, these people are ever ready to misuse their right to freedom of expression that has been granted to them. The term Acceptance does not appear in their mental dictionaries. Just because they are blessed with democracy, violent ways of protest are resorted to. What could they have done if dictatorship would have existed; incidents like these reveal how blatantly the public takes undue advantage of their constitutional rights. The fight over the Amarnath shrine issue descended into an ugly Hindu-Muslim discourse, and led to violence in the state capital.
The land transfer controversy had become an occasion for all sides to trade communal allegations. The Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said whatever be any party’s or individual’s opinion, it was objectionable to take the issue to the streets and “tarnish” the image of Jammu and Kashmir which had “a glorious record of communal harmony”. He said it was not proper to disrupt normalcy at this juncture when it was high tourist season and elections to the state assembly were only three-four months away. With the assembly polls on their way the controversy will enable some people to contest the polls on Kashmir-centric sentiments, others on Jammu sentiments or for the shrine board and such scenarios would create a communal situation to put J&K on fire.
On June 29, finally the Governor sent a letter to the Chief Minister saying that if the land is not allotted to SASB, then the Amarnath Yatra and Yatris would be under the strict surveillance of the state government, all aspects and logistics pertaining to welfare, safety, and security will be the State government’s responsibility.
The Amarnath Pilgrimage considered being one of the holiest and most rewarding pilgrimages for the devotees. Pilgrims believe that completing the yatra is a step close to ‘moksha’, and thus endure all hardships in their way with mammoth amount of faith in their hearts. Thus, I would just like to leave the readers with one question: Will the Authorities at any other holy site say Badrinath or Rameshwaram have to think even twice to make provision for the pilgrims there? To just please a certain community why should the devotees of Amarnath be the underprivileged and bear the brunt of the shrine’s location in unfortunate Kashmir?