Amarnath Yatra cancelled due to spike in coronavirus infections
The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SABS) on Tuesday cancelled the annual Amarnnath Yatra in the wake of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, which has infected over 1.19 million people across India and affected more than 14,600 people in Jammu & Kashmir.
The board is headed by the lieutenant-governor of J&K, Girish Chandra Murmu, who took the decision at the at the 39th meeting of SABS, held through video conference.
The Amarnath cave is considered to be one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines, and hundreds of thousands of devotees undertake the annual pilgrimage in the South Kashmir Himalayas.
“Based on the prevailing circumstances, the board decided with heavy heart that it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year’s Shri Amarnathji Yatra and expressed its regret to announce the cancellation of Yatra 2020. The board is aware of and respects the sentiments of millions of devotees and to keep the religious sentiments alive. The board shall continue the live telecast/ virtual darshan of the morning and evening aarti. Further, the traditional rituals shall be carried out as per past practice. Also, the Charri Mubarak shall be facilitated by the government,” said an official spokesman.
Charri Mubarak is a ritual in which the holy mace of Lord Shiva is taken from Dashnami Akhara temple in Jammu to the holy cave, marking the beginning of pilgrimage.
The meeting was attended by chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, SABS’s CEO Bipul Pathak, and other senior officers of board. They discussed the Supreme Court order on July 13 that left the decision to conduct the Yatra was left to the state administration after assessing the ground realities; the arrangements for the annual event; and how the pandemic has pushed the health care system to the limit, people aware of the proceedings said.
J&K has kept religious places and places of worship closed for the public since the start of the nationwide lockdown in March.Cases have spiked in the region this month, with around 49% of the state’s total cases coming since July 1.
The Amarnath Yatra was curtailed in 2019 following inputs of terror threats. The pilgrimage starts in mid-July and goes on till mid-August. On August 5 last year — when the Union government nullified Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution that gave special privileges to Jammu & Kashmir, and converted into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh — restrictions were imposed in the region on movement and other daily activities.