Amarnath Yatra: Tent-pitchers hold anti-SASB protest, block Pahalgam road

SHABIR AHMAD
ANANTNAG: Scores of people engaged in renting tents on Monday staged protests against the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) accusing it of complicating the procedure for issuing permission for installing tents during the upcoming Amarnath Yatra.
Reports said that the people from different villages of Pahalgam, who were dropped during the draw of lots, blocked the busy Khanabal-Pahalgam road near Seer Hamdan and Ganeshpora, disrupting the traffic movement for several hours.
The protesters raised slogans against the SASB and demanded that they be allowed to erect tents at Nunwan base camp and at other spots enroute the cave shrine.
Later police officials rushed to both the spots and assured the protesters of taking the issue with district administration.
Secretary tent operators association, Nunwan base camp, Imtiyaz Ahmad Mir said the SASB “is depriving us of our livelihood.”
Our families have been associated with the Yatra for ages. We respect the religious sentiments of Yatris. It is because of we people that the Yatra is being conducted smoothly every year. But the SASB is creating problems for us every year,” Mir told Kashmir Reader.
“For decades we have been earning our livelihood out of serving the yatris, but we fail to understand why the Shrine Board wants to keep us away from the affair,” he said.
Mir said that it was on the directions of SASB that they purchased new comfortable and costly tents last year. “After making us to purchase new tents against lakhs of rupees the Board this year decided to go for draw of lots during which hundreds of tent wallas were dropped,” he said.
The tent wallas threatened to go on a hunger strike if they are not granted permission for erecting tents. “We along with our families will come on the roads and go for hunger strike if our demands are not met within a week’s time,” the protesters said.
Chief Executive Officer of SASB, R K Gupta, when contacted, said that they have been adopting the same procedure for tents every year. “This is not the first time that we have gone for draw of lots. During the draw some tent wallas will surely get dropped. We cannot help them,” he said.
He said they have space for only 2000 tents. “When our space is limited what can we do,” he added.