Why politicize Yatra?
Time to get up and perform for SASB
Nothing can diminish the pristine glory of the centuries old Shri Amarnath Shrine, the abode of Shiva, but the petty politics being played by the vested political interests, at times cutting across the ideological lines and the callous attitude of those who manage the annual pilgrimage.
Shiva the unifier, as I visualise, is forcibly being conferred the sobriquet of being some kind of a dividing force. No, this is not the making of common men and women who cutting across religious lines uphold the dignity of the shrine. The fault-line passes through the mindset of certain political parties and groups, both among the mainstream and separatist political Diaspora.
This apart there is a class of abettors also whose prime duty is to make foolproof arrangements for the difficult pilgrimage and on which they have faltered time and again. The high-profile Shri Amarnath Shrine Board is supposed to be the repository of wisdom and expected to deal with matters both of religious and developmental nature. The total failure of the Board headed by the J&K Governor to deliver on these counts has repeatedly led, over the years, to the vested political interests exploiting the situation to achieve narrow ends.
As the one who has been to the revered shrine at least a dozen times during the 1970s and 80s, last time being at the onset of the 21st century, it is painful to witness that an issue which has administrative, environmental and, of course, a strong dimension of faith, has been turned into political mine-field. Of course, the icing on the cake has been provided by the sheer incompetence of the administration to organise the pilgrimage efficiently.
The entire gamut of issues related to conduct of the yatra needs to be looked into afresh. And so is the need for the political groupings, of different hues, to desist from dragging the issue in any kind of controversy with a view to expand their support base. If it can accrue temporary electoral benefit, if any, it has the potential of heaping miseries on the entire society.
Before one touches upon the political dimensions attached to the controversies related to the shrine, it is imperative to have a cursory look at the functioning of the Board. Who should be the member of this Board? This is a significant question which has been overlooked ever since the Board was formed or even before that.
Persons of eminence or playing favourites, this seems to have become the all encompassing guideline in the formation of the Board. Strong element of faith apart, I reiterate, there are significant administrative and scientific factors attached to the yatra which passes through some of the most fascinating and environmentally and ecologically fragile areas. These factors need to be taken care of while forming the Board.
It is the bounden duty of the Central and state Governments, of course with the assistance of the Board, to address all contentious issues including the duration of the pilgrimage to the satisfaction of all. This can be made possible through adopting a holistic approach and the first step in this direction will be to give the Board a truly professional look. It should certainly not become a parking place for “men eminence” without any potential to contribute and retired bureaucrats who mostly treat it as a pension benefit.
Some people may not like it but protecting environment of the area is as important as pursuing one’s faith. The two are intertwined in such cases. Nothing more would shake the faith of the countless devotees of Lord Shiva than total degradation of the environment of his abode.
Separatist Kashmiri leaders such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani have come up with ridiculous reasoning for curtailing the duration of the yatra. Well, the causes behind such reasoning are too obvious and known to all.
The only plausible reason for curtailment of the pilgrimage, if need be should be on the grounds of protection of environment of the area. The issue can be resolved once for all through a scientific study of the area by a committee of experts consisting of scientists including geologists, glaciologists and meteorologists.
Given the sensitive situation in Jammu and Kashmir the political parties particularly those in the mainstream should tread cautiously and curb all attempts to politicise the issue. Such attempts can lead to inter-religion and inter-region tensions which had been proved in the past. Such a situation is neither in the national interest nor beneficial to any particular religious group or region.
Honouring faith, devotion and sentiments of the people should be the top priority. It is no one’s business to emotionally exploit these factors. If at all some drastic measures are to be taken to protect the area, the public should be directly taken into confidence by the administrators and its merits explained to them. In this era of greater media-glare, timing is a great factor. Reach out to the people with plausible explanation before vested interest strikes, should be the moral of the story for the Governments and the Board.
No debate on the issues related to conduct of Amarnath Yatra will be complete without discussing the role of the premier opposition party of the country BJP. It is unfortunate that the party has attached its political fortune, at least in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, to the shrine related issues.
The party does not seem to have learnt any lessons from the past and the fact that its stand had created a dangerous situation in Jammu region after that infamous agitation which had almost pitted the Jammu and Kashmir regions against each other. Did it electorally help the BJP at any level?
Little seems to have changed with the BJP’s thinking on this issue even now. The memorandum submitted by the top party leaders to Home Minister Mr P Chidambram in connection with the high number of deaths of pilgrims makes an interesting study. The 10-page memorandum is purely a political document.
The only worthwhile solution provided by the BJP is through increasing the duration of the yatra. “We are sad to say that a systematic pattern is seen in the last few years to reduce the duration of the Amarnath Yatra. It is a historic yatra and has a religious and cultural significance to this country.” This punch line in the memorandum amply reflects the mindset.
(The author is New Delhi Bureau Chief of Greater Kashmir. Feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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