Amarnath Yatra suspended due to bad weather

JAMMU: Authorities suspended the Amarnath Yatra on Sunday due to bad weather in Jammu and Kashmir.
Officials said no pilgrim will be allowed to move towards the Valley today due to bad weather.
It has been intermittently raining along the nearly 300-km long Jammu-Srinagar national highway since yesterday.
Moderate rain had also lashed the twin tracks of Baltal and Pahalgam, which are used by the pilgrims to reach the cave shrine from the two base camps.
Officials said since it started on July 1 this year, 3,17,726 pilgrims had darshan at the cave shrine during the last 27 days.
Situated at a height of 3,888 metres above the sea-level in the Himalayan ranges in Kashmir, Amarnath cave houses an ice stalagmite structure that symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva, according to the devotees. The ice structure waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon.
So far, 26 pilgrims have died during the yatra. In addition to this, two volunteers and two security men also lost their lives.
Yatra started on July 1 and will conclude on August 15 coinciding with Raksha Bandhan on the Shravan Purnima day.
Meanwhile, the government is hailing a pilgrimage to a holy cave high in the snow-capped mountains of contested Kashmir as an example of communal harmony.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made “pilgrimage tourism” a focus, spending huge sums on January’s Kumbh Mela festival, where more than a hundred million Indians came to bathe in the holy Ganges river.
For the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage in the Pahalgam area, the Jammu and Kashmir state government has spent a record $72 million on preparations for the six-week event that began on July 1.
“It is a perfect example of religious harmony,” said Anup Kumar Soni, additional chief executive of the Amarnath Ji Shrine Board, which organises the pilgrimage.
Amarnath Cave, covered by snow almost all year round, contains an ice stalagmite that is considered a physical manifestation of Lord Shiva, a Hindu god.
Saffron-clad ascetics, some barefoot and with photos of the cave around their necks, trudge the 46 km route to the cave across glaciers and waterlogged trails.
Kashmiri villagers in long woollen coats clear the way of snow and ice, and thousands of troops are deployed to guard against attacks by militant groups.
The route is arduous. One in four of the 300,000 pilgrims who have visited this year have required medical treatment, and 24 have died, mainly from heart attacks and hypertension, according to government statistics.
While thousands of Kashmiris work to clear the path, thousands more rent ponies and palanquins to the pilgrims, and tents for them to sleep in.
“Everyone is always friendly, there is no hostility here,” said a pilgrim who give his name as Abhhinav, hiking up a steep track in driving rain to one of the passes on the route that reaches nearly 4,500 metres in places.
The pilgrimage has been attacked repeatedly by militant groups — the last time in 2017 when eight pilgrims were killed in an ambush.
This year, the government has set up a bar-coding system, allowing only registered people onto the trail.
The trouble has badly affected the region’s farming and tourism industries. In Pahalgam, the pilgrimage offers a lifeline for many families.
“There is no private sector here, and so educated youth and many other Kashmiris are depending on the Yatra,” said Firoz Ahmed Wani, a history graduate and part-time tutor renting out two tents to pilgrims paying Rs 200 a night, at a camp along the route.
“We’re ordinary people. The conflict is something for the politicians to decide.” — IANS