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Uttarakhand: Recovery of Kedarnath skeletons turns into poll issue

india Updated: Oct 17, 2016 07:59 IST
Prithviraj Singh
kedar valley

A file photo of Kedarnath Temple and the buildings around it following cloudburst and flash floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 which left behind a trail of disaster. (HT file)

Shock engulfed the hill state of Uttarakhand after 62 skeletons from the 2013 cloudburst tragedy were found along an abandoned trek to the Kedarnath shrine this month.

Police said 50 skeletons were found along the route over the past two days after a group of trekkers from the Mountaineering and Trekking Association came across nearly a dozen human remains on October 7.

More than 5,500 pilgrims and local residents died in the tragedy three years ago, while many more were reported missing. The trekkers, on an expedition to look for safe routes to the shrine, believe there could be 200 more human remains still buried there.

The discovery has put to question an alleged decision to stop the search and rescue within 10 days of the disaster.

It could turn into a political plank when Uttarakhand votes for a new assembly next year as the Opposition BJP has alleged that the Congress-led government in the hill state has called off the rescue operation in a hurry.

“The Indian army’s search and rescue stopped in 10-12 days after it began on June 21, 2013. The state government must fix the responsibility and take action,” senior BJP leader Trivendra Singh Rawat said.

The party said the government must investigate and punish officials responsible for reporting that the Kedar Valley has been thoroughly searched.

Read: ‘Recovery of human remains in Kedar valley is no surprise’

The Congress government responded, saying the search was never abandoned.

The BJP should ask then chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who has since joined the saffron party, rather than his successor Harish Rawat, the chief minister’s media adviser Surendra Kumar said.

Bahuguna was forced to resign after the Kedarnath disaster and he rebelled against Rawat this year, prompting the Centre to bring the state under President’s Rule for more than two months until the Supreme Court intervened to avert a constitutional crisis.

The trekkers found the human remains at the Gaumukhda Tappar and Gaurimai sites along a treacherous 27km route between the Trijuginarayan temple town and Kedarnath shrine.

“This trek was used by our elders, but was abandoned almost 40 years ago,” said Manoj Rawat, spokesperson for MATA.

Investigators were trying to learn how and why the disaster-struck people took this route.

“It appears most of the skeletons were of local travelers who were familiar with this route. Pilgrims must have followed suit, watching the locals,” said Atul Jamloki, a priest at Trijuginarayan and member of the trekking group.