3 major pilgrimages suspended in Jammu; tourists, yatris, students flee Valley

RAF personnel heading towards different areas from Jammu on Saturday. —Excelsior/Rakesh
RAF personnel heading towards different areas from Jammu on Saturday. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Addl troops, RAF moved to some distts

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 3: After Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage, authorities today also suspended three more yatras in Jammu region including Machail Mata Ji in Kishtwar district, Baba Buda Amarnath Ji in Poonch and Kounsar Nag in Reasi even as Rapid Action Force (RAF) and para-military companies of BSF and CRPF continued to head towards some of the districts in Jammu region in anticipation of terror threats.
While there was no official word, sources told the Excelsior that para-military and police personnel deployed in strength stopped pilgrims heading towards Kishtwar and Gulabgarh for the pilgrimage of Machail Mata Ji early this morning. The pilgrims camping in Kishtwar and Gulabgarh including those with helicopter tickets were asked to return by the security personnel saying they have such directions from the administration and it was being done for their safety and security in view of terror alert.

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Para-military and police personnel had erected special nakas at Thathri, Kishtwar and Gulabgarh to stop the pilgrims.
“The Machail Mata Ji pilgrimage which started on July 25 was scheduled to last till September 5. However, it has been suspended for the time being,” sources said but declined to say whether it will be resumed or not. They added that pilgrims, who had reached the shrine, were asked to perform darshan and return immediately.
Nearly 2500 pilgrims have returned from Thathri and Kishtwar, sources said, adding that by tomorrow evening, all pilgrims were expected to be returned to Kishtwar to leave for their houses.
Every year, large number of pilgrims visit Machail Mata Ji shrine and this year too, number of yatris had booked helicopter tickets to perform the yatra.
Though the pilgrims, who were on way to Kishtwar and Gulbagarh for further journey to Machail Mata Ji shrine were dejected by the administration’s decision to send them back without performing darshan of revered Goddess, majority of them were of the view that the Central and State Governments might have taken the decision keeping in view their security and protection.
In another decision, annual pilgrimage to Shri Budda Amarnath Ji shrine in the border district of Poonch has also been called off this year even without being flagged off. The yatra is organized by the Bajrang Dal.
Bajrang Dal’s national convenor Sohan Solanki said here that keeping in view the present conditions in the State and request of the administration, Budda Amarnath Ji yatra, which was scheduled to be held from August 6-16, has been called off this year.
About 25,000 pilgrims were scheduled to participate in the yatra, Solanki said.
Similarly Kounsar Nag Ji pilgrimage in Reasi district, which was flagged off only yesterday, has also been suspended. The pilgrims, who were on way to the shrine, have been asked to return. They have been brought back to safety in Reasi.
Kounsar Nag pilgrimage was scheduled from August 2 to 7.
Meanwhile, additional companies of para-military forces and teams of Rapid Action Force (RAF) continued to reach here for onward deployment to different districts.
Sources said some of the RAF units have also been stationed at Jammu. However, the paramilitary companies mostly comprising BSF and CRPF continued to move towards Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Rajouri and Poonch districts.
This was, however, after several years that the BSF has been deployed in these districts as the force had been withdrawn long back after elimination of majority of militants in these districts.
Sources said two annual pilgrimages were scheduled to take place in Doda district but a decision on them hasn’t been taken so far. The decision was expected couple of days before start of the yatras.
However, situation in Jammu remained absolutely normal with no panic among the people despite movement of additional para-military forces and suspension of three yatras. Majority of people were confident that whatever decision is taken by the Central Government will be in the interest of the State.
Though RPF has reached Jammu, it hasn’t been specifically deployed in any of the areas.