Post 370 abrogation: Amarnath pilgrims feel ‘ more India in J&K’
Sanjeev K Sharma
JAMMU, July 19: Struggling hard to get suitable words to express her feelings after completing the pilgrimage at revered Amarnath shrine in Kashmir, which opened for the first time for pilgrims since the withdrawal of special status from J&K, 32 years old Kavita Patel, a private sector employee from Mumbai turned emotional and spoke her heart and said she was “feeling more India in Jammu and Kashmir now.”
“Though I visited J&K 5 years back too to pay obeisance at world famed shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji in Katra but now I find that it is easier to move freely here because earlier the very name of Kashmir triggered fear among our parents and they used to hesitate on sending us to J&K,” she said adding: “Even our moving here, especially during evening hours, was not easy because fear of some untoward incident worried our guardians.”
Kavita lauded better roads in J&K now and commended for better facilities for pilgrims but rued hefty charging for certain services in Kashmir and said that there was no proper guidance for those who intend to visit tourist places of Kashmir after performing the pilgrimage.
Nilesh Goswami, 52, an employee at a finance company in Baroda, Gujarat claimed that he was regularly performing the Amarnath pilgrimage right from the year 2006.
Showering all praises for Langar Walas for providing free food and other help to the visiting pilgrims, Goswami claimed that the Pony Walas and Tent Walas were fleecing the pilgrims.
“The Pony Walas charge Rs. 7000-8000 from a pilgrim for carrying them for the pilgrimage on hilly terrain while the Tent Walas take Rs. 550 per head and a bucket of water there costs as high as Rs. 200,” he maintained adding that movement of horses on pilgrimage route disturbs those taking the pilgrimage on foot.
Goswami further said that power cuts in Jammu are disturbing the pilgrims during their stay here in these hot and humid days.
Meenakshi Patel, 54, a housewife from Gujarat said though she visited J&K some four years back, but now she is noticing that things have improved here.
When asked what changes she noted here after the abrogation of Article 370, she said: “Though J&K was already an integral part of India earlier too, but, now it has become more India here.”
Manohar, 70, a retired Government employee from Gujarat claimed that the pilgrimage is mismanaged and sharply resented the hefty charging from pilgrims.
“From Jammu to Baltal the buses charge as high as Rs. 1500 per passenger while on reaching Baltal, there are Pony Walas who further charge at their will and near the shrine Tent Walas also loot the pilgrims and there is none to check the loot,” he maintained.
Manohar further said that in this way the pilgrims get all the money with them exhausted.
“We will complaint for this at higher ups in our State and also in Union Government,” the elderly man said.
These pilgrims are staying at Guru Ravi Dass temple in Krishna Nagar, Amarnath base camp in Bhagwati Nagar etc in Jammu where Jammu Municipal Corporation is maintaining proper cleanliness so that the pilgrims may have a comfortable stay in Jammu.
At Guru Ravi Dass temple in Krishna Nagar the management of the temple is facilitating the pilgrims in all possible ways during their stay.
It is pertinent to mention here that the annual Amaranth pilgrimage resumed this year after a lull of three years. The pilgrimage was stopped midway in a hush-hush manner in the year 2019 when after a long debate Parliament of India abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A on August 5, 2019 which gave special status to J&K and the erstwhile J&K State was then bifurcated into two Union Territories-Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Two years after that the annual Amarnath pilgrimage was only to complete certain vital rituals and the pilgrims were not allowed due to the sudden outbreak of deadly COVID-19 pandemic that claimed thousands of lives across the world.
Few days back there was a cloudburst near Amaranth shrine which claimed 16 lives thereby raising questions on the arrangements for the pilgrimage after concern was raised for the same from many political circles.
Adequate arrangement of security forces and Army is in place to ensure safety of the pilgrims visiting Amarnath shrine.