National Conference Provincial President Devender Singh Rana on Sunday cautioned BJP to desist from taking control of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, saying any misadventure to trample the sanctity of this institution will be resisted tooth and nail by the people of Jammu.
"We won't allow the Board to be converted into a political Akhara", Rana said in a statement while referring to "hidden agenda being implemented overtly and covertly at the behest of Nagpur."
He said the recent statements by senior BJP functionaries only vindicate the apprehensions expressed by National Conference on 9 September 2015 soon after the BJP partnered the government with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
"The Board has grown into an enviable institution, which is not only carrying out and regulating successfully one of the huge pilgrimages in the country but also making a significant contribution in health and educational sectors", he said and regretted that murky BJP politics is on foreplay with even the religious sentiments of people.
Rana wondered as to how the political control of the Board by a particular outfit will empower Jammu psychologically.
"On the contrary, the hidden BJP move will render this institution as fiefdom of Pracharaks from Nagpur and discredited BJP politicians of Jammu and negate the gains achieved since the inception of the Board", he said, adding the fallout of the proposed move will also crush economic interests of Jammu drastically. He said the holy pilgrimage to the Bhavan at Trikuta Hills has given an identity to Jammu across the world, apart from being a huge economic booster to this region.
Elaborating on economic aspects of Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra, the Provincial President said that this revered pilgrimage has sustained the economy of Jammu during most turbulent and testing times since 1990 when tourism influx to the Kashmir Valley via Jammu had dwindled to near zero. "Due to the efforts of the Board and infrastructural amenities made available to the devotees, the annual pilgrimage has crossed ten million mark."
Rana said that ever-since the establishment of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in 1986, the inflow of pilgrims has risen from 13.96 devotees in 1986 to 1. 05 crore in 2012. The number continues to grow due to dedicated efforts of the Board, he said.
Apart from infrastructural facilities for pilgrims, Rana said the Board is doing Herculean job in providing health cover across the region and the state by establishing Mata Vaishno Devi Naryana Cancer Institute. This is in addition to the academic excellence achieved by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University established nearly decade ago.
The Provincial President regretted that instead of allowing this institution to grow without political interference, the BJP is trying to gain control of it in the mistaken belief of empowering Jammu region. "The truth is that such a move will enforce hegemony of Nagpur over this apolitical institution", he said adding that he had apprehended such a move last year when the RSS had attempted to fiddle with the affairs of the Board.
Rana said the "sinister RSS design" to take over the Board has been unfolded at a time when Jammu and Kashmir is passing through a most difficult phase of its history due to mismanagement of PDP-BJP government. "At a time the endeavor of the government should have been to work towards restoration of peace and normalcy, it is inciting passions with a view to polarize the situation as also to derive political gains by taking over the control of Shrine Board", he said and cautioned against the ramifications of the proposed move. (KNS)