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Amarnath Yatra begins, lathicharge at Pahalgam
SRINAGAR, June 28: Amarnath Yatra began today simultaneously from Pahalgam and Baltal routes amid tight security. The first day of the pilgrimage was marked by massive protests by the pilgrims in Pahalgam after they were not allowed to move towards the cave shrine.

Police resorted to mild cane charge to disperse the protesting pilgrims. Officials, however, said that pilgrims who were not allowed to proceed towards the cave were either unregistered or were having the travel documents on other dates.

Eyewitnesses and reports said that hundreds of pilgrims protested against Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) after they were stopped by the police and CRPF men near police station Pahalgam.

“Large number of pilgrims who were allowed to move from the Nunwan base camp were stopped by the police near police station. Police after the proper checking of the documents only allowed the pilgrims with due date and registration and asked the others to go back. This irritated the pilgrims who staged protests against the shrine board,” eyewitnesses said.

They said the pilgrims with no due date and registered after not being allowed tried to remove the barricades from the road. Police said, sensing trouble they resorted to mild cane charge to quell the protesting pilgrims. However, no yatri was injured in police lathicharge. Reports said the yatris raising slogans against shrine board and police continued to protest for hours together. The protesting yatris alleged that they were being punished for their no fault.

“I and my wife have done the registration on the same day hoping that we may perform the yatra together. But here we are being asked about our travel dates being different. How can I leave my wife alone through a treacherous track. Same is the case with many other families who have done the registration on same day. The authorities meant to conduct the pilgrimage have made a mess of this,” a protesting yatri told media persons. Another yatri, Kamla from Delhi said the mismanagement of the authorities has landed them in deep trouble. “We were not aware about the new directives. If it was so why did they allow us to move from Jammu many days before our due travel date,” he said.

A police officer on Yatra duty, however, told Kashmir Times that they were following the directions of the SASB with regard to the regulation in the number of pilgrims. “Since there are clear cut directions from the SC to SASB about the number of pilgrims allowed every day, so the SASB has strictly directed us not to allow any unregistered pilgrim or the one with later travel date. We will ensure that no unregistered pilgrim is allowed to move towards cave and the registered yatris too are allowed only on their due travel dates,” the police officer said.

Earlier the minister for tourism and other top officials of SASB and district administration flagged off the first batch of pilgrims from Nunwan base camp.

Yatra officer, base camp Nunwan, Ashfeen Khan, said that they allowed 2198 pilgrims with proper registration and due travel date from the base camp.

"2198 yatris who were part of the first batch of the yatra were allowed to move towards the holy cave to perform the pilgrimage," Yatra officer said. He said that the proper security and other arrangements have been made en-route cave for the smooth conduct of yatra.

Meanwhile, an official spokesman said, governor N. N. Vohra, who is also the Chairman of the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, was scheduled to participate in the “pratham darshan and pooja” early today morning and also visit both the Base Camps, at Baltal and Nunwan, to review arrangements. He could not do so as the helicopter carrying him and Navin K. Choudhary, CEO of the Shrine Board, was not able to go beyond Sonamarg due to bad weather and poor visibility in the morning.

On the occasion of the commencement of the annual Amarnath Yatra, the governor has prayed for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity in the State.

The Governor, who has been daily monitoring arrangements for the Yatra has conveyed the Shrine Board’s thanks to the State Government, Army, Central Para Military Forces, State Police and all the concerned agencies for their support and cooperation. He has reiterated the need for effective supervision and close day to day monitoring by the Camp Directors and all the functionaries involved in the management of the Yatra, for ensuring smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, Mian Altaf Ahmad, Minister for Forests, flagged-off from Baltal two Baltal-Panjtarni helicopter services which are being operated by Himalayan Heli Services Pvt. Ltd. and Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd, while Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Minister for Tourism, inaugurated the Pahalgam-Panjtarni helicopter service at Pahalgam being operated by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd. Rafi Ahmad Mir, MLA, was among those present on this occasion.

This year’s Amarnath Yatra will conclude on Raksha Bandhan on August 21. The registration of the yatris for this year’s yatra commenced on March 18.

Meanwhile, Navin K. Choudhary, CEO, has once again appealed to the intending yatris to embark on the pilgrimage only after obtaining, in their own interest, a valid yatra permit. This would ensure against any avoidable inconvenience to them. The CEO reiterated that yatris not possessing valid yatra permits will not be allowed to proceed beyond the Nunwan and Baltal base camps.

Referring to some incorrect registration done by Jammu and Kashmir Bank, the CEO informed that instructions have been issued to base camp directors to allow such yatris to undertake the yatra who have been registered on a wrong colour code but are otherwise validly registered. However, such yatris who have come ahead of their scheduled date of embarking on the yatra, as per their registration permit, will be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage on the date for which they have been registered. The CEO further said that unregistered Yatris have no option but to go back to Srinagar and first obtain registration before they can be allowed to undertake the Yatra.

7938 pilgrims had darshan at the holy cave on the first day of the annual pilgrimage which commenced today.

In all, 5531 pilgrims left for the Holy Cave from Chandanwari route today while as 4745 Yatris left via Baltal route. Besides, 804 pilgrims travelled by helicopter from Baltal side to Panjtarni and 69 from Pahalgam side.

News Updated at : Friday, June 28, 2013
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