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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Valley tense over Kaunsar Nag Yatra, Pandits protest

Peerzada Ashiq , Hindustan Times   Srinagar, August 01, 2014
First Published: 18:59 IST(1/8/2014) | Last Updated: 19:05 IST(1/8/2014)

Kashmir remained tense on Friday, following separatists' call for post-prayers protests against the Kaunsar Nag Yatra, which the government halted from the Aharbal route in the Kashmir valley on Thursday.

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Hundreds of protesters hurled stones in parts of Srinagar, Anantnag and Sopore districts at security forces after the prayers.

Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani had called for "peaceful protests" on Friday.
"The new yatra destination will destroy the fragile environment and water resources of Kashmir," said Geelani, who has also called for a Valley-wide shutdown against the yatra on Saturday.

"It is a political decision made under the pressure of the communal minded people and its only purpose is the cultural aggression on Kashmir," he added.

Geelani accused chief minister Omer Abdullah of "being only concerned with his chair and not caring about the negative effects of this decision in haste".

The authorities placed senior separatist leaders, which include Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Geelani, under house arrests. They were disallowed to participate in the Friday congregations.

The government on Thursday halted the first batch of Kashmiri Pandits to embark on the yatra destination, situated 12,000 feet high in Pir Panchal mountain range, following protests by locals, who have formed "Save Kaunsar Nag Front" and separatists.

The government had earlier given permission from Aharbal route in south Kashmir's Kulgam district. The destination is 32 km from the spot and takes two-day trek. However, the yatra is on from the Reasi route, also two-day trek, in Jammu. Around 2,000 Pandits are scheduled to take the yatra.

Pandits are scheduled to perform six-day puja at the glacial lake in south Kashmir, also favourite among trekkers.

New Delhi-based Pandit organisation, All Parties Migrants Co-ordination Committee (APMCC), which had sought permission for the route, had condemned the attitude of the state government and accused it of "buckling under the pressure of some elements hell-bent upon foiling the return of Kashmiri Pandits by stopping the Kousar Nag yatra even after clearing it earlier".

"Certain groups created a misconception around Kaunsar Nag Yatra, known as Kramsaras Tirtha (Vishnu Paad) Yatra among Kashmiri Pandits relating it to the Yatra being conducted by people of Jammu from Reasi side adding Kashmiri Pandits have been going to this place from times immemorial," said APMCC spokesman.

He said, "A communal colour is being given to it to create fear psychosis among Pandits that they won't be allowed to worship according to their will".

"Why Kashmiri Pandits Yatra is stopped when Geelani himself says KPs should return to their original places of residence. How can they return when their every move is looked upon with suspicion?" asked Vinod Pandit, APMCC chairman.

He said the yatra was a simple pilgrimage to the lake, where Pandits would have offered water to their ancestors after prayers. "Which in no way can be called pollution," he added.

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