Amarnath Yatra 2012
Of pilgrimage, ecology and other issues thereof
B L SARAF
This year 6.32 lac yatris paid obeisance to Lord Shiva in the cave shrine of Shri Amarnathji. There has been a phenomenal rise in the number of yatris for various reasons. The improved infrastructure coupled with the enormous support of the locals could be listed as a major factor for the increase. The increased volume of the pilgrimage has, naturally, brought to the fore some serious issues which need to be addressed in the larger interests of the Yatra and ecology of the State. This year more than hundred pilgrims lost their lives on health considerations. So much so, the Supreme Court was on its own forced to intervene and issued notices to the concerned to explain the reasons for lack of proper medical and other facilities which caused such deaths. The Civil Society members in the Valley have also raised a concern on various issues related to the increasing number of yatris as the years go by. The concern of the Apex Court is undoubtedly genuine and timely. Unfortunately, some in the Valley see in it an opportunity to resurrect the ghost of 2008, when the Amarnath land row was created against the Yatra and the whole State was brought to the brim of a communal explosion. According to them, the Yatra has seriously affected ecology of the Valley and destroyed the environment. So, they say that the number of pilgrims and the period of Yatra should be drastically curtailed.
To some bleeding hearts in Kashmir the increase in volume of yatra and elongation of yatra period is not out of religious considerations but by way of an reaction “ precipitated by the ubiquitous Sangh Pariwar to wage Dharamydh on Kashmir.” Indeed, it is a farfetched argument. Nobody can put his /her life to the risk only on a reaction, particularly when we witness larger number of women, children and middle aged men among the yatris. We will have to see the matter in a wide perspective and find an explanation for the ever burgeoning religious processions to the places held sacred by the followers of different faiths. Rise of religious fundamentalism and consequent propounding of ‘war on terror ‘ theory may have taken better part of some of the devotee’s inclinations and replaced spiritualism with the religiosity. Though, for the most of them core religious commitment remains there. Attitude of various extremist religious groups across the world and the governments in the West and, particularly, the USA have largely contributed to the rise of religiosity - over emphasizing religious denomination without caring too much for its spiritual aspect. Otherwise how can one explain the young educated and westernized professional Muslim females in the US and other western countries taking to Hijab and Muslim males flaunting the religious denominations, almost with vengeance. We see the young forming a substantial component of the precessions which lead to the various religious place in India like Shirdi, Ajmeer and Vaishnovdevi, and elsewhere in the world. Added to it, is the relative economic prosperity the middle class experiences universally. That is, probably, one of the reasons why one sees a great rush to queue up for a ticket to perform Haj which in not so distant past used to be a luxury of only a few in the Valley, though the urge to perform this pious religious duty was always there in the heart of a devout. Therefore, any increase in the numbers of Amarnath yatris has to seen in this context and certainly not as a campaign for a ’Dharamyudh‘ in Kashmir. Like the increase in religious processions to the places of worship of different faiths globally, growth in volume of Amarnath Yatra is not “ pure communal aggression bereft of religious piety ” as some of the commentators would like to describe it.
Ecological and environmental issues are serious in nature and every citizen must be concerned with. However, it can’t be selective - certainly shouldn’t be perceived as such. The environmentalist in Kashmir would have done good to their credibility had they shown same amount of zeal to stop plundering of the green gold in the Valley. We have not heard them raise a murmur when the lush green forests were tuned into barren tracts of land to be usurped by anyone who could lay his hands on. They would sound authentic had they lifted their little finger when the majestic royal Chinar and the protected walnut trees were mercilessly felled in heaps and appropriated by the locals . They did not speak a word to save Dal and other water bodies from being polluted when palatial buildings were being constructed by the locals on their banks. There was a criminal silence when the saffron land was turned into automobile work shops, with toxic petroleum waste spilling all over degrading the whole environment . The process goes on unabated.
Seen thus, people are justified in asking questions why such a concern is voiced only on the commencement of the annual Amarnath yatra. Is this the reflection of a genuine concern or, in it, there is something more than meets the eye. Judging these environmentalists by their political activities latter seems to be the case. We must very humbly tell these Civil Society members that by raking up such controversy they are doing no good to the cause of Kashmir, Kashmiryat and the pluralistic ethos of the State—certainly not to the cause they seem to espouse. Issues of ecology and environment are too serious to be politicized to polarise the Kashmir society. Let a holistic and sustained view be taken in this regard, so that a concerted effort is launched by all the stake holders to address them. If it means regulation and better management of the yatra it must be done, irrespective of any reaction it may evoke in the country. Undoubtedly, the managers of the Yatra have to do a lot of explaining on various counts - protection of environment and life of a pilgrim are included therein.
(B L Saraf is former Principal District & Sessions Judge, He can be reached at bushanlalsaraf @gmail. Com)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 9 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 9 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 10 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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