The anger over the land transfer to the Amarnath board has more politics than religion to it, looking beyond the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s back-pedalling on its initial approval of eight canals of land for temporary pilgrim facilities during the two peak months of the annual Amarnath Yatra.
The issue, say local sources, preferring anonymity, is that the state government should manage the facilitation of the yatra, not the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). This is pitched by the separatists as a ‘Hindu’ conspiracy against ‘Kashmiriyat’.
However, a point that seems to rankle with Kashmiri Muslims outside the Valley has not been raised by either by the National Conference or the PDP: that the hereditary share of chadhava (offerings) that went to the (Muslim) Malik family was stopped. The shepherd ancestor of this family, say Kashmiri scholars, guided medieval Hindus to relocate the cave when they returned to the Valley during the rule of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin ‘Budshah’ – after having fled in years earlier during the rule of his father, Sikander ‘Butshikan’.
What disgruntled Kashmiri Muslim youth in Delhi do not say, is that hereditary percentages of chadhava rights were withdrawn not just for this Muslim family associated with Amarnath, but for the Hindu priests who used to share it, at both Amarnath and Vaishno Devi. They were given a lump sum in settlement instead when government formed sarkari shrine boards in 1986.
The Vaishno Devi Shrine Board was set up in 1986 with J&K Governor as head to ensure better facilities for pilgrims. The hereditary priests had not provided proper facilities, despite the wealth of these shrines.
Another grouse is that the local Muslim muleteers who rent their animals to pilgrims were earlier registered free with the Deputy Commissioner. Now they are registered with the shrine boards and pay a fee. This complaint has been whipped up by separatists as ‘anti-Kashmiriyat”, another reason for the PDP’s backtrack since their political base is only in the Valley.