Geelani wants no road to holy cave, warns of protest

Maintenance work must not be confused with widening, says IGP

On a day when the Jammu and Kashmir government took a group of journalists in a helicopter on the Balatal-Panjtarni-Amarnath Cave route for a first-hand account of the condition of the track, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani warned of trouble “if the government goes ahead with its proposed plan of constructing a road to the holy cave in south Kashmir Himalayas.”

“The number of pilgrims must be contained to a specific figure. Otherwise the present number that exceeds with every passing day may lead to unprecedented disaster in Valley,” Geelani said after chairing a meeting of his faction of Hurriyat here.

He said the affairs of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board should be handed over to Kashmiri Pandits .

The hardline Hurriyat faction constituted a committee of five members, which was asked to take civil society groups into confidence over the issue.

Hurriyat spokesperson Ayaz Akbar told Deccan Herald that a report is expected after a comprehensive study.

“This will be subjected to study and a seminar is scheduled on November 10. Intellectuals, lawyers, traders, journalists and transporters, will extend their viewpoints and a unanimous decision on the yatra will be accorded,” he said.

Akbar said they will launch a mass campaign on the issue till the momentum for full-scale protests builds. He said, “even if building momentum for protests takes time, we will work for it so that we can launch the agitation in a full scale.”

To counter Geelani’s claims  the state government on Wednesday facilitated aerial survey for a selected group of journalists.

There seemed to be no changes in the track from Baltal to the cave shrine as was seen before the end of the annual yatra in August this year.

As the helicopter flew low, very close to the track, there was little human movement noticeable in the area between Baltal and Sangam and none beyond that. The area around the holy cave is snow-bound.

Inspector general of police (Kashmir range) S M Sahai, said the misconception that is being created around the activities on the track needed to be cleared.

“There is no concept of a road, macadamisation or construction of any sort of permanent structures on the route,” Sahai said.

He said the Supreme Court or the Special High Power Committee have not issued orders or made recommendations for construction of a macadamised road or construction of permanent structures.

However, the IGP said, clearing of the route and making it worthy for the yatris to travel is an annual process, which should not be misconstrued as road widening.

(With inputs from agencies)

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