Pilgrimage, Politics and Roadside Peeing
“Yatris need to show some respect and abstain from roadside peeing, for this Lidder River has water of the same ice stalagmite for which they travel thousands of miles to Kashmir. However, they are from a realm where government is forced to spend billions on radio declarations to make people aware about not urinating in public places. Therefore, expecting any sort of civility, respect, politeness and courtesy from them would be like displaying a punch to a lifelong blind. The onus falls on the state government to cater the needs of yatris to come up with toilets at important places and thus save valley from the calamitous downpour.”, writes Faheem Abdul Muneeb
Amarnath cave, according to legends, is place where Shiva narrated the story of perpetuity to his consort Parvati, from where the cave gets its name Amarnth, meaning “God of Eternity”. The ice column is located in a cave at an elevation of 13,500 feet. At the rear end water drips through crevices which starts freezing as it touches the floor of the cave, thus forming the stalagmite. Bhuta Malik, a Kashmiri Muslim is believed to be man who discovered the cave awhile he was there with his sheep.
It can be accessed through two routes – one from Pahalgam, district Islamabad (Nunwan), to the Cave and the other from Baltal, district Ganderbal. The Pahalgam route is also the traditional one, and since it is 33 km’s long it takes yatris 5 days from Nunwan to the Cave and back.
In the initial years (about 140 years since its discovery) Yatra was more of a routine pilgrimage with not much impact on people of Kashmir. However, since the resurgence of Hindu Right Wing and the Ram Janam Bhoomi campaign several shrines attracted the attention of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which were used to revive a fundamentalist form of Hinduism, Amarnath being just an example in this case.
Amarnath Yatra, a religious pilgrimage has always been welcome to people of Jammu and Kashmir. It used to be the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir who managed the safety of yatris for centuries. The creation of Amarnath Shrine Board is a recent development, that too with a political motive which doesn’t need an explanation and has always been opposed by all the civil society groups of Jammu and Kashmir. It would be pertinent to mention here that whether it was saving the yatris from the wrath of snow avalanches in 1996 or serving them food during the 2008 turmoil, it was always a common Kashmiri Muslim who stood shoulder to shoulder with these yatris. However, Yatra has turned now into a national enterprise and an instrument of imperialism. If we call it a tool of Hindu Zionism it would not be unjustified. The Arab expansion and the establishment of Israel was an outcome of a religious idea after 2000 years, so is case for Kashmir. It’s a Palestine into making. The creation of new pilgrimage sites by Right Wing Hindu fronts in Jammu and Kashmir is a clear proof of this fact.
However, the more serious concern is the environmental hazard that Yatra brings with it. The number of yatris that has increased with passage of time needs a serious thought. In 1989, not more than 12000 yatris visited the Amarnath cave and now the number has turned up to more than a half million and that too within the short span of time of about 48 days. Therefore, producing more or less 25 thousand tonnes of environmental waste a day. It is bound to happen as the carrying capacity of route is little more than 7500 a day and about 25000 are being pumped in on daily basis.
It is very important to think about Amarnath Yatra from an environmental point of view rather than religious. The route carries two important sources of rivers the Lidder and Sindh which provide drinking water to more or less 80% of state population and therefore can lead to much crisis in near future if no thought is given to the Yatra.
The new concern that grew since few years is the roadside peeing of yatris which is another serious environmental as well as social concern bothering the vale residents. Recently a picture of yatris went viral on social networking sites while the yatris were urinating on the banks of Dal Lake, thus polluting the face of Kashmir’s beauty. I for the matter would not dare to throw the blame on the yatris itself as they are habituated to it. Yatris need to show some respect and abstain from roadside peeing, for this Lidder River has water of the same ice stalagmite for which they travel thousands of miles to Kashmir. However they are from a realm where government is forced to spend billions on radio declarations to make people aware about not urinating in public places. Therefore expecting any sort of civility, respect, politeness and courtesy from them would be like displaying a punch to a lifelong blind. The onus falls on the state government to cater the needs of yatris to come up with toilets at important places and thus save valley from the calamitous downpour.
Faheem Abdul Muneeb studies at Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.