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Kashmir inundation and Amarnath cataclysm

by Indian Hindu yatra (pilgrimage) to the high peak mountain top glacier in Kashmir is suspended due to bad weather, reports Firstpost.com (July 12, 2015). Yet again the threat of fresh floods looms large and all keep fingers crossed and hope local authorities to take some extra measures to avoid repetition of yester year´s inundation. The calamity of deluge befallen on Kashmir (September 2014) with fatalities crossing two hundred mark and properties, businesses, livestock swallowed could be dwarfed by the manifestation of impending grievous environmental affliction through rediscovered religious fervour Amarnath yatra.

Swami Agnivesh, a social activist and Hindu religious scholar on October 25, 2014 stated that "the prolonged Amarnath yatra had a role in the unprecedented floods that recently hit the valley and the yatra had adversely impacted the fragile environment in the upper reaches of valley leading to the melting of the glaciers. To reach the cave, pilgrims litter the path with piles of garbage, water bottles, gas cylinders, human faeces, and occasional horse carcasses". Swami speaking to CNS added "Nobody will dare to tell you this, but I am telling you and you must admit this fact that the Amarnath Yatra whose duration was stretched in a planned way is the source of catastrophe for the people of Kashmir. The yatra had no essence and that it had been given importance just to ensure that there is Hindu presence in Kashmir".

The devastating floods killed at least 285 people and turned over 100,000 houses into a mound of rubble and debris leaving more than a million people homeless. The elephantine calamity, as reported by dnaindia.com, became a boon for Indian army raising a bill of Rs 500 corers (US $ 78, 000000.00) through defence ministry for its assistance in Kashmir´s flood relief operations. Though it is on record that people of Kashmir received no such help but in the self-help scheme extended voluntary help to anyone in need saving hundreds of lives. To add salt to injury, Indian government offers a peanut distribution of Rs 70,000/- (US $ 1100.00) per household, left now on the roads with no sustenance.

Amarnath Glacier of Kashmir with distinct characteristics, keeping in view its high altitude geographical location is vulnerable to natural tragedies. The fallout of such a happening can prove devastating both for visiting Indian devotees and the local population. But as believed, the prevalent political situation of Kashmir gives us much to contemplate and forces one to draw a comparison between religious and political necessities.

With the advancement in technology, the land and air traffic has increased from a minuscule number to tens of thousands of devotees and Kashmir, perhaps, is relieved for being landlocked to save it from an influx from the sea shores of the Indian coastline. The affluent and political elite of India these days prefer to use the helicopter service and government or private jetliners making extra sorties in and out of Kashmir to transport stimulated and induced devotees. Kashmir also witnesses land transport of government and private coach and bus companies carrying passengers to Pahalgam for their onward journey swelling the number of devotee flow leading to a chockablock situation.

The number is on the increase and Kashmir bracing up decades old political upheaval is apprehensive with discernment and cautiously observant of the influx of multitudes witnessed never before. In not so distant past, an attempt by the government of India to grab huge chunk of land for providing permanent shelter to a colossal number of visiting devotees creating uproar resulted in political confrontation, renewed political upheaval and turmoil costing number of precious lives. The main aim of the move is thought to be an attempt to change the demographic character of Muslim majority of Kashmir.

To understand Amarnath, one has to travel back in time when a handful of visiting Sadhus ( nomadic Hindu religious tribe) soot, carbonaceous substance, smeared all over their face and body, a few of them mother naked would trek high altitude death traps for days on to reach the glacier for Darshan. In sub-zero temperatures at the mountain top, rocky hazardous terrain and invisible facilities with resultant fatalities reduced the number of returnees to less than half.

Amarnath land grab, as reported, set Kashmir ablaze and widespread discontentment and frustration among people multiplied manifold to see perpetrators of human-right violations in the aftermath of land grabbing attempt go free and as believed, were even rewarded. To ameliorate on an ecological imbalance or a scientific balanced approach with little effort may work successfully for Kedarnath shrine in India but Kashmir´s volatility as a result of unprecedented gory details leaves no time for local authorities to attend to such natural disasters.

It is widely believed that various Indian governments use the formula of applying psychological pressure on Kashmiris through threats like land grab, refugee settlements, or even abrogation of article370. Now government of India in a fresh bid is seeking 300 acres of land for two satellites dry ports import export trade. Kashmiri Pandits, who migrated under mysterious circumstances to Indian cities in early nineties, as reiterated in unison by Muslims and Pandits still living in Kashmir, are urged to return without any hindrance to live side by side with their Muslim compatriots.

The argument holds credence of a clear intent when India´s ruling BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) and the mindset of its sister concerns talk of doing away with article 370 hoping to create a scare amongst Kashmiri masses. It is widely believed that India makes all attempts to divert Kashmir´s attention from the main issue of right of self determination.

The unregulated and uncontrolled religious devotee influx signalling environmental disaster has already assumed dangerous proportions. The assessment made by environmental experts is a warning for authorities in Kashmir to take stock of the situation and take right decisions beforehand to curtail enormous number of officially facilitated visiting devotees drastically bringing it down to a manageable level to save Kashmir from utter ruin. The political uncertainty makes Kashmir vulnerable to deluges, environmental disasters, and ecological imbalances. Indian army ruling the roost trying to win Kashmir for India using brute force hardens Kashmir´s resolve for Azaadi (independence) leaving no time for anyone to heed the dangers of possible annihilating occurrences.




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