The Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday announced that it would not be allowing a yatra to Kausarnaag in south Kashmir, following an outcry from locals and separatists.
The All Pandit Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC), a New Delhi-based Kashmiri Pandits’ group, had earlier in the month announced a yatra to the picturesque lake on July 31.
A yatra to the lake was started from Jammu’s Reasi district four years ago but the trek is unsafe and takes at least two days. The trek from Aharbal is also supposed to take two days, but is considered safer.
“The yatra will operate only through its traditional route in Reasi district (from Jammu side),” said Kulgam deputy commissioner Nisar Ahmed Wani, while revoking his July 21 order.
“The order says trekking is open for tourists and not pilgrimage. If it was not a traditional route then how come the administration allowed it in the first place?” asked spokesman of APMCC Amit Raina.
The Save Kausar Nag Front (SKNF), a group formed by Kulgam locals, organised several protests in the last two weeks and had called for a shutdown and a protest march against the yatra. “It’s not about religion. It’s about protection of our natural resources, belonging to Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits as well,” said the SKNF spokesman.
“If environment is the concern, then entire yatra should be banned. When 2,000 pilgrims travelling from Reasi pose no threat to environment, how come 40 Pandits trekking from south Kashmir can?” asked Raina.
“Hindutva is becoming the government policy of India. The starting of the Kounsar Nag and other yatras are part of the process. All communal minded people are hell-bent upon eliminating the identity of the minorities, particularly Muslims of Kashmir,” said Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani.
Geelani has also called for a shutdown on Saturday against the yatra.