Amarnath yatra begins amid protest

Over 22,000 set off for the cave shrine on first day

The pilgrimage started via two routes- from Pahalgam in south Kashmir and Baltal in central Kashmir. On the first day over 22,000 pilgrims moved towards the Amarnath cave. Helicopter services were also inaugurated.

Governor, N N Vohra, who is also the chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), organising the pilgrimage, paid obeisance at the holy cave and offered prayers. He also reviewed the arrangements being made for the pilgrimage, which comes to an end on August 13.

Vohra, who also interacted with pilgrims and the local people assisting SASB in yatra said,  “The local people are the backbone of the pilgrimage and without their support the pilgrimage is not possible”.

Some pilgrims held demonstrations at Pahalgam alleging that they were not provided transport from base camp at Nunwan upto Chandanwari, en route the Yatra. “We reached Pahalgam around midnight and in the morning we were not provided the transport,” Mahesk Kumar, a pilgrim, alleged.

The local government officials, however, said they were told by higher authorities that 5,000 registered pilgrims would reach the Nunwan base camp on Tuesday.

“But besides the registered pilgrims, 3,000 unregistered yatris also reached and this created the problem,” said Rouf Ahmad, a government official.

Regarding the lack of transport facilities, the official said the condition of road from Nunwan to Chandanwari was  not good at three places and it was slippery causing frequent jams.  Because of the jamming, some vehicles could not move forward and some pilgrims had to return to the base camp, he said. Meanwhile, Chief  Executive Officer (CEO) SASB, R K Goyal, has appealed to the Amarnath pilgrims to perform the yatra only after getting themselves registered and obtaining the required valid Yatra permit.

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