Bad weather forces hundreds of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to return halfway from Chandenwari
Hundreds of pilgrims returned from Chandenwari, some 15 km from Pahalgam, as they were not able to cross within the stipulated time because of bad weather.Updated: Jun 29, 2018 21:15 IST
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Hundreds of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims had to return halfway due to bad weather on Friday, hours after they started the pilgrimage amidst heavy rains from Pahalgam in central Kashmir’s Anantnag, even as authorities suspended the holy trek from Baltal base camp.
“The pilgrims were asked to move in groups, but some of them returned from Chandenwari, some 15 km from Pahalgam. The weather was bad and they were not able to cross Chandenwari within the stipulated time,” Anantnag deputy commissioner Mohammad Younis said.
He said 1,433 pilgrims have been able to reach Sheshnag but did not say how many returned from Chandenwari.
However, an official manning the helpline of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board said that around 1,735 pilgrims had started from Pahalgam towards the cave shrine, a 42 km distance to trek.
“Those who crossed Chandenwari have reached Sheshnag and will be staying there at night where they will have every facilities like food, water and shelter,” Younis said.
Meanwhile, the yatra was suspended for the day from the shorter route of Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, second time since it started on Thursday, after heavy rains damaged tracks, officials said.
“The rains were quite fast though not incessant. We have restored the track but I don’t see any possibility of yatra starting today (Friday) now. The weather situation will again dictate things tomorrow,” said Ganderbal deputy commissioner Piyush Singla.
He said the pilgrims who have converged at the base camp have been well placed and there are no issues of water, food, medicines or lodging.
It has been raining intermittently across the Valley since Wednesday, flooding rivers and streams particularly in south Kashmir and closing some mountainous roads.
The pilgrimage, which was scheduled to start early on Thursday from Baltal and Pahalgam, was stopped due to rains since Wednesday after it made the treacherous mountain tracks slippery.
Except for a handful of people, the pilgrims were not allowed to trek the path from Pahalgam because of rains on Thursday. Hundreds of them were allowed to move ahead on the treacherous trek from Baltal on Thursday afternoon.
The cave shrine, which is 3,893 metres above sea level, houses an ice stalagmite that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, and devotees believe the structure symbolises Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. It was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in the 15th century.
The two-month annual pilgrimage for which 2.11 lakh people have registered so far this year comes amid a governor’s rule in the state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its coalition with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on June 20.
There has been heightened militant activity before the pilgrimage started, but a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander assured the pilgrims that “you don’t need any security as you are our guests”.
Eight pilgrims, mostly women, were killed after gunmen attacked their bus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag last year.
Hundreds of Kashmiris and over 40,000 security personnel are toiling hard to ensure that the arrangements are in place for the annual Hindu pilgrimage.
The state police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indian Army have put up a coordinated security arrangement in place for the pilgrimage.
First Published: Jun 29, 2018 21:14 IST