On welcoming yatris
Kashmiris have always been warm hosts with a strong belief in communal harmony. The issue is certainly not religious, but environmental
In 1996 thousands of yatris en-route to Amarnath cave were caught in a snow tempest. 273 died and hundreds were injured. Militancy at that time was at its peak, but Yatra went on uninterrupted. Even when they were greeted with scores of dead bodies of their kith and kin on regular pattern everyday, Kashmiris always upheld the principle of communal harmony. The blood-splattered valley welcomed the pilgrims though it itself was molested in honor and dignity. Kashmiri Muslims saved a number of yatris from the clutches of death. So much so that they also took the stranded and unattended Hindus – including those belonging to communal parties of Hindu Saffron brigade – to their homes and nursed them, providing all the facilities. This feel-good atmosphere and kind hospitality could not but make the yatris decry at the toxic anti-Muslim, anti-Kashmiri vilification directed against them by communal elements. One Hindu yatri put in rendition this human-tenderness they witnessed from estranged Kashmiris in an interview with Doordarshan Delhi in these words: ‘Kashmiris were the best Muslims of the world and that Hindus failed to understand them properly’.
That violence is not in their grain and they are tolerant is because people of Kashmir are Islam-loving people. It is Islam which teaches them to show respect to the religious beliefs of other communities. This tolerance and magnanimity has no parallel in India. While not being a part of the Pandith exodus in nineties, Kashmiris kept the doors of their hearts ajar in welcoming them back to their neighborhood and resisted (and are resisting) their separate settlements. Compare it with the ethnic cleansing that the Muslims in Gujarat and Assam were subjected to. They are not welcomed to their homes and are forced to live a rotten camp-life. ‘They are attacked if they strayed back to their indigenous habitats’. (Read ‘Assam’s tragedy’ by Harsh Mander which appeared in The Hindu on August 26, 2012).
Pilgrimage to Amarnath cave like any pilgrimage to holy shrine is a journey of faith which inspires devotees to face willingly difficult terrain and harsh weather conditions. Otherwise how would an octogenarian yatri venture into such a risky task. Inhospitable geography can’t deter him/her for making such a tryst. Deaths in such a situation are inevitable. And natural. Despite state government taking best possible preventive measures, deaths occurring due to hypothermia and pulmonary oedema can’t be ruled out.
Pilgrimage to other holy places, situated at high altitudes like Kailash Mansarovar, also take place. Casualties due to inclement weather and inability of body to acclimatize to cold are a regular phenomenon there too. But we do not see any breast flagelling on part of communalist forces in India. We do not witness any judicial activism on such far granted implications. We don’t see people getting agitated or demanding widening of roads or lengthening of Yatra period and increasing their number. Instead voices are raised in favor of protecting the ecology of area. States are asked to take drastic and stern steps in this regard. Unfortunately in Kashmir such a Xeroxed situation invite different response from Hindu-majority India. Two different parameters are applied which exposes the stink of hypocrisy.
Ever since Amarnath Shrine Board conducted, organized and supervised the Yatra (thanks tom NC regime for constituting the board) the simple innocuous journey of faith aimed to rinse soul off different malaises got politicized. With the Board having close proximity with Hindutva forces it soon bared its communal fangs. Now Yatra is meant and projected not a simple act of devotion but a ferocious bullying Hindu majority’s response to have its will prevail over Muslim Kashmir. Unfortunately the secular majority in India see in their silence are helping to grow this perception. And in a way providing a tacit support to Hindutva forces in their muscle-flexing approach viz-a-viz Kashmir.
The brazenness that BJP displays in refuting the environmental apprehensions should make Don-Quixote restless in his grave. ‘Time and again’, puffs up BJP’s national executive member and state chief spokesman Dr. Jitendra, ‘it has been established by experts that since there is no glacier en-route Amarnath, there ought to be no apprehension of any ecological disturbance’ (GK, 24 August 2012). But this is canard, a big lie that has no basis. Here is what the glaciologist of the fame of Prof. Syed Iqbal, who in 2008 chaired the Glacier and Climate Change Commission, Govt. of Sikkim, reported on ‘increased human activity in form of Amarnath yatris’ which he said ‘will have a devastating bearing on the Thajwas Baltal and Kolahai glaciers’ and warned ‘recent rush in the region has made a very negative impact of the glaciers mass balance particularly on Kolahai. Since 1990s the glacierized area in Lidder valley has shrunk more than 40%...’ He added ’48 glaciers in the upper reaches of the mountains cover a total glaciered area of 39 kilometers and ice volume of over one thousand three hundred and eighty nine cubic kilometers’. We are afraid that name “Muslim” might prove a red rag to the BJP bull, so to avoid that let us refer to Natish San Gupta Commission constituted in the aftermath of snowstorm mentioned above. Gupta Commission recommended that Yatra duration should be limited to 15 days only. It also stressed that number of yatris should not exceed one lakh per year. Commission made it clear that Yatra cannot be delinked from environment. Remember, some years back when a petition was filed in JK High Court pleading for a year round pilgrimage to cave, the Chief Justice, himself a Hindu, dismissed the petition.
Pilgrims leave behind mountains of human excreta and other waste that finds its way in Lidder river ultimately. Perhaps they want to drown the “irreconcilable” valley in their excreta and thus teach a lesson to Muslim majority Kashmir!
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Lastupdate on : Thu, 30 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 30 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 31 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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