In the volatile state of Jammu and Kashmir where almost every little incident stands the risk of being politicised, it does not come as a surprise that the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) should have been used by vested interests to create discord. Unfortunately, the protests have snowballed out of control with three killed and 70 injured, including 23 policemen, and crores worth of property destroyed. The 100 acres allotted to the SASB for building structures for pilgrims, it is alleged by the protestors, is a crafty ploy by India to embark on a resettlement campaign. There is nothing at all to suggest that this was the government’s intention given that the decision was taken at a cabinet meeting where both the Congress and its partner, the People’s Democratic Party, were represented.
Now that things have taken an ugly turn, the PDP has asked that the decision be revoked. Needless to say, this issue has given the hardliners like separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the Hurriyat a stick to beat the government with. Ruling out any compromise, they too have asked that the decision be cancelled. The chief minister now has no choice but to rely on the outcome of the all-party meeting that he has called for coming to a viable solution. On the one hand, there is a dearth of facilities for the pilgrims. On the other, there are heightened sensitivities owing to attempts all these years by elements across the border to impart a communal tinge to any situation in the Valley. This has now come to the fore since the issue deals with Amarnath pilgrims.
After a long period of violence, things were beginning to look up in the state, partly due to Pakistan’s internal compulsions and partly due to the people’s desire for peace. It is a pity that this has now been disrupted. All political parties should work together to see that there is no further damage to life and property. And when things cool down, sort out the issue of facilities for pilgrims.