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Punjab unrest: Kashmir's Amarnath pilgrimage deferred

National,Religion, Tue, 26 May 2009 IANS

Srinagar, May 26 (IANS) The annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine in Kashmir that was to begin June 7 has been postponed by a week due to the violent unrest in neighbouring Punjab and also because of heavy snowfall on the mountainous track to the temple, an official said Tuesday.


The two month long pilgrimage will now start June 15 and end Aug 5 this year, said the spokesperson of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the Hindu pilgrimage.



The decision to reschedule the pilgrimage came as situation in Punjab worsened following violence Monday over the killing of a religious leader in Vienna. Many trains were cancelled or deferred and curfew imposed at many places in the only Sikh majority state of India after violent protests there.



Hundreds of thousands of Hindus from all over India visit the cave shrine situated at an altitude of 4,175 meters.



The temple board official noted that the law and order situation in Punjab, particularly in regard to the mobilisation of free kitchens, has been an 'unforeseen factor' for the deferment of the pilgrimage 'particularly as dozens of trains have been cancelled or deferred'.



The track to the high altitude Amarnath shrine, which houses the ice stalagmite, an icon of Hindu lord Shiva, remains covered under snow, the official said.



Governor N.N. Vohra, who heads the temple trust, undertook an aerial survey Sunday to assess the situation on the two routes to the cave shrine and at the base camps.



Before the postponement decision was taken, board officials got inputs from concerned agencies about the status of track clearance on both the axis of Pahalgam and Baltal, said the spokesperson.



'Intermittent rains and fresh snowfall on the ridges, especially in the areas adjoining the holy cave, Panchtarni, Sheshnag and Mahagunas, has retarded the pace of snow melting this year,' the spokesperson said.



'Keeping in view an on-the-ground assessment of all the above aspects, the board has been left with no choice except to reschedule the yatra from June 7 to June 15.'



The SASB was at the centre of the Amarnath land row, which saw Hindu-majority Jammu ranged against the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley last year, over the allotment of forest land to the temple trust.


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