Caught in the pincer grip of an intractable religious establishment and a heedless political establishment, faith is already a screaming banshee to protest further over being exploited at minor or major cost to the Valley’s long-lost cause of environment and ecology. But if some deep recesses in human consciousness, untouched by an almost round-the-clock assault on the auditory senses, rebel at the thought of another unsuspecting spot about to be stripped of its serenity and purity in the name of religion and commercial tourism, the blame must lie on hope – that incurable malady sustaining the dream of God’s work being recognisable as God’s work to the children and grand-children of the present generation.
Notwithstanding the wonder that a society that takes refreshing dips in a putrid lake and thinks little of performing ritual ablutions from what is practically a sewer should still harbour elements that take exception to vandals, official statements on a “historic” pilgrimage to the high altitude Kausar Nag in South Kashmir cannot but be read with growing alarm, more so when accompanied by standardised officialese of “personally monitoring water supply, stay arrangements and langar facilities right from Reasi to Kausar Nag.” Though promises of this nature have a proven habit of disappearing into the folds of amnesia when applied to established human habitations in Jammu and Kashmir, their fulfilment to serve insidious agenda can be cited as administrative and logistical triumphs at any global conference summoned to celebrate wilful destruction.
Flagged off last week from Reasi, barely ten days before a major pilgrimage in the Kashmir Himalayas was scheduled to end, the trek to Kausar Nag, plucked out of thin air as an organised religious trip, seems to be on the way of acquiring the dimensions the Amarnath Yatra attained after being hijacked by India’s Hindutva juggernaut. Facile counterpoints based on untenable arguments and flimsy evidence cannot offset grave environmental concerns and the visible degradation imposed on the zone. Traffic that had peaked at 600,000 last year may have approximately halved this season, mainly due to factors pertaining to nature’s protests – an aspect organisers of the new event ought to bear well in mind when promoting it as an extension of obeisance at Katra.