Mukesh Jain, 50, who hails from Baroda is no stranger to hospitality of Kashmiris. This year’s yatra is his fifth.
He said warmth and love he has been receiving all these years, this time around prompted him to bring along some relatives and friends too.
“I have come here to perform Yatra even during 2008, 2010 and 2016 agitations. But never ever did I feel insecure. The love and warmth I receive every time I visit here prompt me to come again and again,” says Jain.
Jain along with his group has been eagerly waiting to embark on a journey from Nunwan base camp. “He (Jain) used to always tell me that Kashmir is a safe place and that what was being portrayed by a section of media is only propaganda. It was on his insistence that I visited here. And now I realize what I had missed in my life,” says a visibly excited friend of Jain.
Pradeep Kumar, a resident of New Delhi, who has come along with a group of 12 pilgrims, echoed the same feelings.
While pilgrims performing yatra via shorter Baltal route in Sonamarg usually return to the base camp within a day, those taking the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 42 kms, with an overnight stay at one of the halting stations– Panchtarni, Sheshnag– before they can pay obeisance at the cave shrine.
Most of the yatris proceeded from Nunwan base camp to Chandwari base camp in the vehicles while others just walked.
A local hotelier and activist Mushtaq Pahalgami told Greater Kashmir that that yatris have always been protected and received with warmth by Kashmiris and this is something which is never going to change.