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J&K Parties Raise Concerns Over Road Construction to Amarnath Cave

Anees Zargar |
BRO Project Beacon involved in restoration and improvement of Amarnath Yatra track says completion of task “historic”; Regional parties say construction poses serious threat to fragile ecology.
BRO Project Beacon involved in restoration and improvement of Amarnath Yatra track says completion of task “historic”; Regional parties say construction poses serious threat to fragile ecology

Image Courtesy: PTI

Srinagar: Political parties in Kashmir are expressing concern after the Border Roads Organization (BRO) managed to take the first set of vehicles up to Amarnath cave in the mountainous of South Kashmir earlier this week. 

The BRO Project Beacon, which is involved in the restoration and improvement of Amarnath Yatra tracks, said the completion of the task was “historic”. Many, including the regional political leadership, however, flagged it, arguing that the construction could pose a serious threat to the region’s fragile ecology. 

People’s Democratic Party's Youth General Secretary Mohit Bhan said that the construction has prompted concerns over the reckless urbanisation of religious sites without taking into consideration the ecological impact and the ethos of the Hindu pilgrimage.

"This is not history; it's the biggest crime one can commit to Hinduism and its faith in nature. Hinduism is all about immersing in spiritual mother nature; that's why our pilgrimages are in the lap of the Himalayas. Turning religious pilgrimages into picnic spots for mere political gains is worthy of condemnation. We have seen the wrath of God in Joshimath, Kedarnath and yet we are learning no lessons instead, we are inviting a catastrophe in Kashmir," Bhan wrote on X. 

The cautionary reference to the catastrophic incidents in Joshimath and Kedarnath, Bhan said, underscores the potential dangers of interfering with the delicate ecological balance of these revered sites. 

Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami also slammed the authorities, arguing that they should have engaged all stakeholders so that environmental concerns are safeguarded. 

“The road cutting through glaciers and critical forest areas without obtaining the necessary No Objection Certificates has created substantial challenges for environmental sustainability in the Himalayan Region,” he said in a statement. 

Tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims from across the country make the arduous journey in the Kashmir mountains to a holy cave, located at an elevation of 13,000 ft, between July and August.  The cave was first discovered by a local Muslim shepherd around 1850 and has since emerged as one of the most significant pilgrimages for Hindu devotees. In 2023, over three lakh pilgrims had registered for the 62-day long yatra, the longest ever in decades. 

National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah urged the authorities to revisit the decision, arguing the construction could be detrimental to the region’s fragile ecology. 

“Our courts have passed so many orders to save the green belts. People living around Dal Lake are not allowed to repair their homes, and even in places like Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Gulmarg, there is a ban on construction,” Abdullah told reporters in Srinagar, adding that the area near the cave should also be safeguarded for environmental concerns. 

He also pointed out that facing challenges during the yatra is not unusual, drawing a parallel with other religious pilgrimages. “When we undertake the Hajj, we don’t use vehicles for Tawaf (a ritual to walk around Kaaba during Hajj). Similarly, many visitors to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine choose to walk instead of using vehicles,” the former J&K chief minister said.

In 2008, scores of Kashmiris were killed in months-long agitation after locals opposed a move to transfer land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for construction purposes. The initial opposition to the transfer was based on environmental concerns, which later spiralled into violent street demonstrations against the government. 

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