As hardliner separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's threat to start an agitation over alleged road construction to Amarnath cave shrine has sparked a war of words between him and chief minister Omar Abdullah, the issue has people worried about potential disturbance to peace in the valley.
For the past couple of days the octogenarian and the CM have been levelling accusations against each other.
The issue was flared up after Geelani, in a press conference on Thursday, had accused the state government of having started road-widening work and other infrastructure building en route to the cave shrine.
To substantiate his claim he had displayed pictures of alleged construction site, stocked construction material and of concrete 'residential' structures in the ecologically fragile area.
The pictures, he said, were taken by members of his team who went to the site
Reacting to the claims, the CM had offered state helicopter to Geelani and challenged him to conduct an aerial survey of Pahalgam area to prove his allegations about a 'metalled road' being laid there.
The allegations and counter-allegations have continued as Geelani has rejected CM's offer and dared the government to allow him to visit the site with people.
Omar has expressed surprise that the separatist leader is not ready to know the truth. "He cannot ascertain facts in a closed room. He should give proof if he has any,'' Abdullah remarked.
Meanwhile, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), headed by governor NN Vohra, has
chosen not to react.
The chief executive officer of SASB Naveen Choudhary on Tuesday said, "The matter is sub judice. I would not like to react."
However, some board officials have denied any construction being carried out in the cave-shrine area.
"Neither has the board asked for a road on the glacier nor has the apex court ordered any such construction. Some maintenance work going on which is routine after that yatra,'' said an official.
The `rumour' of construction and the subsquent war of words has many worried. A senior police officer who did not want to be named said.
``The three-year agitation in the valley was actually a spillover of 2008 Amarnath land row. Every issue becomes important in Kashmir when people feel their identity is threatened or it is a matter of land. I hope the stakeholders understand it as peace is very fragile in Kashmir,'' the police officer said.
Even People's Democratic Party (PDP) which started the agitation by pulling out of the Cong-PDP coalition is worried by cautious. ``It's a matter that has to be resolved by the shrine board and government,'' said PDP spokesman, Nayeem Akhtar.
Akhtar, however, said that the stakeholders have to look at the environmental concerns. ``There can be nothing at the cost of environment. Balance needs to be struck. The glaciers in the area are not important for Kashmir only, they feed a majority of population in this part of the world. So a partisan view is required,'' he added.