A day after the state government stopped Amaranth yatra and advised pilgrims to leave the Kashmir valley immediately, two major pilgrimages of the Jammu region— the annual Machail yatra in Kishtwar district and Budha Amarnath yatra in Poonch district — were suspended today “due to security threats to pilgrims”.
ccording to official sources, the Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar Angrez Singh Rana directed officials to stop Machail yatra and pilgrims were advised not to head towards Kishtwar from outside.
Since morning, announcements were made in Gulabgarh, the base camp of the yatra that pilgrims should leave the area and nobody should head towards Machail to perform pilgrimage.
“Nobody was allowed to stay in Gulabgarh and those who had completed the pilgrimage were told to leave the district immediately. We performed pilgrimage yesterday and this morning we were told to leave,” said Vishal Sharma, a pilgrim from Jammu.
Sharma, along with his wife and two children, was heading back home and was disappointed with the decision taken by the state government. “The decision to suspend Amarnath yatra is understandable, but suspending Machail yatra in the Jammu region where we don’t face any problem is beyond imagination,” he said.
Every year, more than two lakh pilgrims visit Machail to perform the pilgrimage and this year, the pilgrimage was formally started by the Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner a week back.
Another pilgrim Ankush Kumar who was also coming back from Machail said they were planning to stay back in Kishtwar, but it was disappointing to hear the suspension of yatra.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) also announced the cancellation of the upcoming annual Budha Amarnath yatra, citing threat posed by Pakistan-sponsored militants to the pilgrimage. The 10-day yatra, organised by the VHP, was scheduled to begin on August 6.
“We can’t put the lives of pilgrims at risk in view of the emerging security situation following the recovery of the US-made sniper rifle and landmine along the Amarnath yatra track in Kashmir. We have decided to cancel the yatra,” Leela Karan Sharma, state VHP president told The Tribune.
He said the decision to suspend the yatra was taken at a general meeting which was convened here to take stock of the situation. “We have also decided to suspend the Kousar Nag yatra in Kulgam district of south Kashmir,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that we will not be able to undertake Budha Amarnath yatra this year, but the decision might have been taken in the larger interest of the pilgrims. We have no idea as what the Centre plans to do in J&K. There should be some clarity,” Sachin Sharma, a pilgrim who intended to perform the yatra.
Nearly one lakh pilgrims undertook Budha Amarnath yatra last year.
Source: The Tribune