ANANTNAG: Amid a complete shutdown and protests, clashes erupted Thursday in Kulgam district over the declaration of Kausar Naag as a Hindu pilgrimage destination.
Reports said all shops, business establishments and private offices remained shut in the town while passenger traffic was off the roads. Scores of people assembled near Manzgam on Aharbal road and started marching towards Aharbal. As the protesters raising slogans like ‘Bachao Bachao, Kausar Naag Bachao’ (Save Kausar Naag) started marching, government forces deployed in the area tried to stop them. Angry youth resorted to heavy stone pelting at police and paramilitary forces that resorted to teargas shelling to quell the protests.
At least six protesters sustained minor injuries during the clashes which continued for more than an hour. The injured were taken to PHC Manzgam where from four of them were referred to district hospital Kulgam. All the injured were discharged after the treatment.
Eyewitnesses said that clashes also erupted near Aharbal tourist spot.
A member of ‘Save Kausar Naag Front’, which has been organizing protests over the proposed Yatra, said they won’t allow the Yatra at the lake at the cost of the fragile environs of the area.
“Kausar Naag is a crystal clear lake and is a source of many water bodies like Veshu. The environment of the route leading to the lake is very fragile. Kashmir Pandits are our brothers. But we cannot allow plunder of the area. We will oppose the move tooth and nail,” the member said.
Fearing protests and tension over the issue, sources said the district administration withdrew the permission for the Yatra via Aharbal.
“Top officials from the administration and police held an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening and decided to withdraw the permission for the Yatra from Kulgam route. All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC) which is organizing the pilgrimage was informed about the decision soon after the meeting,” the sources told Kashmir Reader.
However, a top official from the district administration who wished not to be named said they had “never granted” any permission for the Yatra via Kulgam.
“No such permission had been granted to any Pandit body ever. What was there to be withdrawn when there no permission. Granting permission for any Yatra is up to the government. District administration has no role in it. The Yatra will be performed through the traditional from Reasi district,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, head of the APMCC, Vinod Pandit, said that some elements were trying to give the Yatra a communal colour.
“We have been performing this Yatra from last four years, but this time we had tried to make it official. Some people are trying to make it an issue for their vested interests,” Pandit told reporters in Kulgam.
He said that rumors are being spread that Pandits are going to construct structures at Kausar Naag which is far from reality.
“The area remains under snow for six months, so how is it possible to construct structures there? The Yatra is being given unnecessary colour,” Pandit said.
Meanwhile, in Srinagar a police spokesman said that police restored order and situation was brought to normal at Aharbal after a stone pelting incident.
“A group of people blocked the road at Aharbal in the jurisdiction of police station DH Pora. Among the group some miscreants pelted stones on a police party. Police used mild lathi charge and chased them away. Three persons received minor injuries during the pelting. Situation has been restored to normal,” the spokesman added.