SRINAGAR: Days after Kausar Naag in south Kashmir was declared as a “pilgrimage site for Hindus”, the people living near the areas adjacent to the site are staging a protest on Saturday to oppose the move, citing threat to ecology as the reason.
Kausar Naag, a lake located in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, was recently declared a Hindu pilgrim destination. The Yatra to the lake is set to commence from Reasi in Jammu division with the state government reportedly making preparation to facilitate the pilgrimage. Around 4000 Hindus are expected to visit the lake for July 29 ‘puja’ being held for the first time ever.
However, the people from the areas adjacent to the ecologically-fragile site are getting together to oppose the move. And, in a first, a group of them from Aharbal, located some 30 kms from Kausar Naag, has decided to stage a protest sit-in here on July 26.
“Kausar Naag is beautiful but fragile at the same time. If they start bringing people to this place for religious activities, the lake will be destroyed and so will be the ecology of entire Kashmir,” Umar Bhat, a young engineer, told Kashmir Reader.
The people are using social media for the purpose. They have created a Facebook event, ‘Save Kousarnaag’, to inform netizens about the protest programme. And judging by the response the event has received, people are showing interest in the protest.
“We are also using our personal contacts to ask more and more people to participate in the protest,” Umar said.
“Kausar Naag is source of Aharbal waterfall and many streams flowing through south Kashmir. Human activity will destroy the lake, and with it will be destroyed our resources like Aharbal. Declaring Kausar Naag as a pilgrimage destination is a disastrous move we all must oppose,” he added.
The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath cave shrine, also in south Kashmir, has already become controversial. Of late, the government has extended the duration of the Yatra the shrine, allowing an unchecked number of pilgrims visiting it.
The environmentalists and civil society of the Valley have been expressing concern over the damage to ecology caused by the rising number of pilgrims visiting Amarnath. The pro-freedom camp, however, claims that the Yatra is being used as a tool to change demography of the Valley.
The Amarnath Yatra, in fact, became the cause for mass agitation in 2008 when the then PDP-Congress coalition government transferred 800 kanals of forestland to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, the body managing the Yatra. At least 65 civilians died in police and paramilitary forces firing in Kashmir during the agitation.