With barely a few weeks left for annual Amarnath yatra to take place, all eyes are fixed on the Amarnath Shrine Board which is yet to come up with an official statement on whether the pilgrimage will be held or cancelled for the second consecutive year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As suspense intensifies over the issue, differences have surfaced among locals over the issue. While few have expressed their reservations against the conduct of the annual pilgrimage, a majority of people, including those from the business community and some political parties, want the board to conduct it with fewer pilgrims and for lesser number of days.
One such person looking forward to the pilgrimage is Ravi Mahajan who own a 42-room hotel in Jammu. Like most other hotels, not a single room at Mahajan’s facility has had a booking ever since the second wave of pandemic hit. Mahajan and many others from the trading community have pinned their hopes on the annual yatra scheduled to start on June 28 this year. The hotelier said the pilgrimage must be conducted with all rules in place.
Meanwhile, several social and religious bodies in Jammu said the board should take a final decision on the matter keeping the Covid-19 situation in mind. Working president of the VHP’s J&K unit Rajesh Gupta said there is no problem in cancelling the yatra for the second consecutive year if the board believes that this yatra could pose a threat to the safety of pilgrims and other stakeholders.
Some political parties like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are also not in favour of conducting the yatra amid the pandemic. PDP president and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti recently said the will of the people of J&K hardly matters as all decisions are taken by the central government. However, parties like the Congress and BJP are in favour of going ahead with the yatra for a few days with all necessary precautions. Both J&K Congress chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta said the government should ensure guidelines are followed strictly at the yatra.
The board has already suspended the registration of pilgrims last month. J&K LG Manoj Sinha recently met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed this issue. The administration has, meanwhile, started some exercise to ensure a smooth conduct of the yatra if it is held.