Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah reiterated on Thursday his government was ready to fend off any browbeating by saffron parties to get the annual Amarnath yatra pilgrimage started before the scheduled date of June 29.
"The yatra will commence as scheduled from June 29 (in accordance with) the programme that has been given to us," said Abdullah, who was speaking to the media at the occasion of Mela Khir Bhawani, a festival observed by Kashmiri pandits.
"No one will be allowed to proceed to the holy cave before the said date," he added.
The government is facing the threat of agitation from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other saffron parties, which want to start the yatra on June 15.
"We accept the challenge wholeheartedly," VHP national secretary Khem Chand Sharma had earlier said when Abdullah made similar remarks on Tuesday.
Such a statement from the chief minister was expected because he had nothing to do with the yatra or its religiosity but only to secure his vote bank in the valley, he added.
Abdullah said on Thursday there was still a lot of snow on the route to the cave shrine and advancing the date would put the lives of the pilgrims at risk.
"The roads to the cave are blocked .... We are making all efforts to clear the snow before June 29," he said.