Thousands of pilgrims descended in Jammu on Thursday for the Amarnath yatra, undeterred by the curfew in parts of the Valley following protests against civilian killings by security forces.
Muslims too are participating in the yatra with equal enthusiasm. Around 20,000 Muslim labourers and 7,000 pony owners are dotting the yatra routes to help Hindu pilgrims surmount the arduous mountainous terrain and reach the holy cave of Lord Shiva.
“The protests in the Valley are against security forces. Nobody has asked me to close down my guesthouse,” Majid Khan, a guesthouse owner in Sonamarg, told HT.
Moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is also against correlating the yatra and the ongoing protests.
“We want the yatra to be peaceful and successful. Our protests are against the human rights violations and unabated killing of innocent civilians in Kashmir,” said the Mirwaiz.
This year, the shrine is accessible by two routes - Baltal and Pahalgam, unlike last year when the Pahalgam route was closed because of heavy snow.
Helicopters services have also started for pilgrims who need help in reaching the cave situated at an altitude of 13,000 ft (3,952 metres).