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Amarnath meltdown: Who did it?

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 01:44 IST
ARUN Joshi
Highlight Story

NO ONE wants to own up to creating the 'man-made Shivlingam' at Amarnath cave this year. And with all the heat it has generated, rest assured no one will — not unless a probe pins responsibility.

Though the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) on Sunday said the 'lingam' was natural like every year's, it does not take more than a look at it to conclude otherwise. In the absence of a natural 'lingam', someone thought it was better to put together one so that pilgrims are not disappointed and the pilgrimage, like every year, earns the "success" tag. And indications are that the SASB was in the thick of action. HT tells you how the operation was possibly carried out and why the SASB should be held responsible.

The snow must have been brought from the higher reaches for the artificial lingam. That the snow was not available nearby is obvious — had it snowed, the lingam would have formed by itself. So, someone ordered snow from the higher reaches and then someone got down to 'constructing' the lingam.

The spot where the lingam forms is protected by a fence, which means an outsider could not have done the job unnoticed. Also, two months prior to the commencement of the yatra, the entire area is sanitised. All these indications of insiders' involvement.

The operation would have worked but for the lingam's finish. The natural smoothness was not there and dirt and imprints (though partially covered by a fresh layer of snow) gave away the story.

Sources said in all probability J&K Governor S.K. Sinha too knew about the lingam as he chairs the SASB. He had himself seen the lingam twice — on May 16 and on June 11. Still, he kept quiet.

When the pilgrimage schedule was announced in April, there was no lingam at the shrine. The artificial lingam was in place a month later — by May 23, when the yatra registration schedule was announced. On June 11, Sinha offered the inaugural prayers and briefed the media about the pilgrimage. He told them everything, except that the lingam was not natural.

HT tried to contact the governor, but the Raj Bhavan said he was "busy with an appointment".

Sources said the SASB wanted to project the high pilgrim turnout as its success story.

More than five lakh pilgrims are expected this year. But the SASB has refused to admit that the lingam was artificial. On Sunday, a spokesperson for it said there was no question of tampering with the sanctity of the shrine.

He said a team of SASB members had visited the cave -- as is the routine -- in the second week of May and found that lingam formation had not taken place.

The SASB then sent a High Altitude Warfare School team to inspect the track and surroundings of the cave. The team found the cave-top free of snow and the glacier cover had receded by 100 metres. The Shivlingam site was dry.

On May 18, a team of Snow & Avalanche Studies Establishment was sent to the cave. Through inspection and satellite pictures, this team too confirmed the receding glaciers (primarily due to global warming).

A welcome development was reported by this team a day later -- about water trickling (2-3 drops per minute). By month-end, there were reports of heavy snowfall in the area and a Shivlingam had started forming.

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