Kausar Naag Yatra: We’re only providing security, logistical support, says govt

SRINAGAR: Four days ahead of the Yatra to Kausar Naag in south Kashmir, the government on Friday sought to distance itself from the controversial event but admitted that it was facilitating it by way of providing security and logistical support.
It appears that the Yatra is part of so-called “revival of (Hindus’) pre-‘90s religious practices” by a group of Kashmiri Pandits that has threatened to take “Hurriyat’s religious interference” to the United Nations.
The pilgrimage to Kausar Naag, being held for the first time on July 29, is sans any government order declaring the pristine lake as a pilgrimage site. But the authorities said they were facilitating the event.
“We received request from a Pandit group saying that they want to visit Kausar Naag for some religious activity. Since it a religious matter and concerns Pandits, we have issued an order for providing necessary services to the pilgrims,” Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Kulgam, Nisar Wani, told Kashmir Reader on Friday.
He said the request has been made by the All Parties Migrants’ Coordination Committee (APMCC), an amalgam of various Hindu bodies claiming to work over religious and political matters concerning the community. And the event is part of its committed endeavor to “revive all Hindu pilgrimage sites” in the Valley.
“Kausar Naag and other sites we are organising pilgrimage to are basically places of reverence that we used to visit before the ‘90s. Now, we are making an effort to restart pilgrimage to the sites, and Kousar Naag is a part of this very process,” chairman of APMCC, Vinod Pandit, told Kashmir Reader.
Of late, the amalgam has been organising ‘pilgrimages’ to many “historic religious sites located in districts surrounding Srinagar”.
The annual Yatra to Gangbal lake in Ganderbal was started by the APMCC in 2009 after, reportedly, 100 years at the mountainous Northeast Harmukh; Yatra of ‘Mata Katyayani Ji’ at Kakran village of Kulgam district is also being organised annually for past three years; and annual pilgrimage to Dyneshwar cave in Kaloosa Bandipora is being organised since 2012.
“Members of our community have been going to these places before ‘90s. Now, we go there in an organised manner due to security and other concerns,” Pandit, who is based in south Kashmir, said.
This year APMCC has announced pilgrimage to Kausar Naag, which is one of the highest altitude springs of the Valley situated on a hill around 30 kilometers from Aharbal waterfall in Shopian district of south Kashmir. The lake, covering an area of five kilometers in length and two and a half kilometers in breadth, is said to be the source of water to many streams flowing through south Kashmir.
The Yatra, being held from Jammu for past four years, is being organised from Kashmir from July 29 for the first time ever.
The decision to organise pilgrimage to the site, is, however, being met with resistance with groups of locals from south Kashmir organising a protest on Saturday, citing environmental reasons. The pro-freedom camp too has been speaking against the ‘pilgrimage’.
The APMCC chairman said his outfit doesn’t require the nod of the state government or “others” to identify “Hindu pilgrimage sites” in the Valley.
“It is our religious matter. Who is government to ask us where to go for pilgrimage? Or who is Hurriyat to tell us where to go,” he said.
Pandit said they would take the Hurriyat’s “interference in our religious matters” to New Delhi and United Nations.
“If they try to hamper our religious practices, we will talk to New Delhi or United Nations,” he said.
APMCC has been protesting for introduction of temple bill and for repair and maintenance of the temples damaged during the years of militancy in the Valley. If passed, Pandit said, the bill could result in constitution of a body for control of Hindu religious places.
“It (the body) can also facilitate revival of the pilgrimage sites and help in organising Yatra to the sites in a better way,” he said.