REASI: A weeklong pilgrimage to Kausar Nag, a high-altitude lake in south Kashmir, which was mired in controversy last year, was flagged off by a BJP legislator from Reasi constituency Ajay Nada this morning.
Pilgrims from Reasi district in Jammu have been visiting the lake for the past few years. Last year, a few Hindus, including Kashmiri Pandits, attempted to embark on the yatra from Kulgam district, but local Muslims demonstrated against it, saying that more than a religious function the ‘yatra’ is aimed at laying religious claim to a tourist spot.
The protesters and nomads in the vicinity of the lake had said they had never heard of any yatra to the lake in their lifetime or before. The 5×2.5km lake is a popular trekking destination visited by Valleyites.
The protesters had drawn parallels with Amarnath Yatra, which was a low-key affair two decades ago but has over the years become a controversial annual ritual, with environmentalists raising concerns over the damage caused by the visit of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the fragile ecosystems en route to the cave shrine.
An official spokesman described the beginning of the ‘Kausar Nag yatra’ as “historical”.
The statement added: “Nanda said he will personally monitor the water availability, stay arrangements, langer facilities right from Reasi to Kausar Nag. He further added that efforts would be made to promote the Kausar Nag as tourist destination.
He asked civil administration to chalk out a comprehensive strategy to popularize the spot by erecting hoardings at prominent locations, so that pilgrims after visiting the cave shrine of Vaishno Devi here could be diverted to such locations.”
The official statement said that the “yatra along with historical Charri Mubarak was organized successfully in the past” and awareness about the (‘yatra’) route “gained huge momentum and a lot of public hailing from different parts of the State expressed willingness to join it this year”.