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Amarnath Yatra: A Symbol of Hindu -Muslim Unity
Author : Ravindra Nath  |       .
Posted on : Thursday, December 31, 2009      Read More
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Security of this year’s Amarnath yatra is bound to be a very tough and challenging task for the Army, para-military forces, Jammu and Kashmir police and the state administration. Making the Yatra a success would be a Herculean task in the wake of terrorist threats, turmoil over transfer of a piece of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board by the state government and efforts to spoil the peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the state to create hurdles in the ensuing assembly elections.

After the successful completion of last year’s Amarnath Yatra, the separatist elements were on the look out for an opportunity to raise their head. The transfer of land to the Shrine Board was a God-sent opportunity. Taking advantage of the favourable situation they engulfed the whole state in turmoil and created hurdles in the smooth organization of the Yatra. The terrorist encounters in Srinagar and Shopian on June 22 were also a part of the terrorists’ game plan to disrupt the Yatra by diverting the attention of the security forces. In these incidents four militants of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and one CRPF jawan were killed.

Life remained paralysed in the Kashmir valley, due to the strike against transfer of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. People held demonstrations in various parts of Srinagar and other towns. Shops and business establishments remained closed and traffic was also off the road. There are reports that the tourists have started leaving the valley in large numbers and the pilgrimage was also affected.

The Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra appealed to all political parties and organizations to help in restoring normalcy in the state. The Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also called upon the people not to give credence to the false propaganda of some elements, that outsiders are being permanently settled on the controversial land.

In view of prevailing situation, the state government has tightened security in the state to ensure the success of the Amarnath Yatra. This year more security personnel have been deployed as compared to last year. The Army was being assisted by two teams of Para Commandoes. IED and bomb disposal teams, a detachment of Army dogs, Army Aviation Helicopters and helipads have also been catered for. This force was being assisted by the BSF, CRPF and the J&K Police. Multi-tires security cordon has been laid for the protection of the pilgrims to thwart any terrorist attempt to disrupt the Yatra.

The Security Forces deployed in the area have to endure the adverse terrain and weather conditions to put up an exhaustive security umbrella for the pilgrimage. Apart from performing the security related duties, the Army was assisting the Yatra organizers in evacuation of casualties. Medical and veterinary detachments were manning the medical camps to cater for health related problems. Signal detachments have been deployed to provide communication facilities. The Army had also put in place infrastructure for disaster management that includes Arctic tents and cold weather clothing, blankets, etc. The Army was confident that with the cooperation of the para-military forces and the J and K police the Amarnath Yatra would be completed successfully despite hurdles in the way.

The journey to Amarnath Holy Cave is very arduous, tough, enchanting, scenic and spectacular. On the first leg of journey one can reach Pahalgam, the world famous beauty spot from Jammu or Srinagar by road. From there one has to traverse the 16 km scenic route to Chandanwari and reach Sheshnag via Pissu Top. Sheshnag derives its name for seven Peaks, resembling the beads of mythical snake. From here the pilgrims go to Panchtarni after climbing a step height. Panchtarni is the last camp euroute Amarnath Holy Cave. Holy Cave is only 6 km from Panchtarni. Pilgrims cover this route to and fro in one day as there is no place to stay en -route. The Army and the other security agencies were guarding day and night every inch of this difficult route to ensure safe journey to the pilgrims.

This traditional pilgrimage is emotionally and spiritually so overwhelming that all the physical discomforts of the treacherous route or the adverse weather conditions fail to dampen the devotees flocking to the Holy cave. The enthusiastic and determined pilgrims from across the country were showing great determination, physical and mental strength to traverse the arduous journey with a smile on their faces.

Despite the turmoil of militancy and the separatists prevailing in the State for more than a decade the importance of the Amarnathji Yatra has not been diluted. Lakhs of pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the shrine every year with complete disregard to personal security. The number of aspirants for the pilgrimage has always been more than the Government can allow due to security reasons and time constraints. This year also the number of the pilgrims was very high and the organizers were facing an uphill task to make arrangements.

This year the pilgrimage commenced in June with the moving out of the “Chari Mubarrak”, and as per custom end on the traditionally auspicious day of Shravan Purnima in August.

The state government has made adequate arrangement to control the rush of pilgrims to the shrine. Experience had been that thousands of pilgrims rush towards the Cave as usually the number is more than the prescribed limit. A limited number of pilgrims were being permitted to have darshan of the naturally formed ice-lingam that is a symbol of Lord Shiva.

The holy cave of Amarnathji is located at the head of the Sind Valley in Kashmir, flanked on the north by the great Himalayan range and in the south by the Sasakat mountain. It is located beside a small tributary of the Sind River called Amaravati. In the cave there is an Ice lingam that has been worshipped since early historic times. There are a number of Legends on the origin of this holy place. It is believed that the lord Shiva narrated the Amar Katha to Godess Parvati in this cave.

The mythology behind the discovery of this cave is very interesting. It was believed that a ''Sadhu'' gave a Gujaar shepherd, Buta Mailk, a sack full of coal. When the shepherd went back and opened the sack, he found that it was filled with gold coins. He rushed back to thank the ''Sadhu'', but instead found the holy cave and the sacred ''Lingam''. He propagated this incident among the villagers and since then, this cave as regarded as the holy shrine of Lord Shiva.

For ages, the Muslim Malik family had taken charge of the pilgrims. They were responsible for keeping the track in order, escorting the pilgrims, carrying the sick ones and ensuring that nothing is stolen. For this, the family received one third of the offerings. So committed was the Muslim Malik family to this shrine that they dedicated their lives in its maintenance and towards facilitating the pilgrimage for generations and they continue to do so even today.

The yatra is truly an example of Hindu – Muslim unity, as Muslim population has never paid heed to threat by terrorists and, along with the Hindus, they participate in the pilgrimage with traditional fervour. This year also, despite terrorist threats, they were unmoved in their faith and devotion to the shrine and were willing to risk the ire and reprisal of terrorists to maintain the same.

(The writer is a PIB accredited Security Analyst)
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