JUNAID NABI BAZAZ
Srinagar: “Role of Indian armed forces in holding annual Amarnath Yatra, an annual pilgrimage dominantly covered by Indian Hindus, in Jammu and Kashmir is the most dominant across India,” said Swathi Seshadri, a contributor of the report “Amarnath Yatra, A militarized Pilgrimage” on Thursday.
The 208-page report which was jointly produced by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a documentation centre for human rights violations in the state and, Equations, a Banglore based non-governmental organization, was released at a local hotel here. The report, through its ten chapters, attempts to show how the Indian state has instutionalised the Yatra through its military apparatus and its implications.
“There are many yatras taking place in India, Amarnath is the highest militarized one. Nearly 30,000 armed forces which include various companies of India army and paramilitary forces escort busses in which yatris are flowing to the cave. From an entry of devotee in Jammu, to the last destination of the cave, a yatra is escorted by the armed forces. It does not even happen to Chardham yatra, the country’s largest pilgrimage,” Swathi told Kashmir Reader.
Swathi, who works with Equations, said the Indian state has used the yatra as a project to integrate the state with its union at the cost of Kashmiris who have to suffer more than its benefits. She said during the time period of yatra, a make shift operation theatre with the facility of 35 doctors are at the disposal of yatras, while for local surrounding the cave, a primary health centre manned by few doctors is kept at service. The locals don’t even have a x-ray technician for day and night while the same available during the yatra period, she added.
“The number of yatris has quadrupled in the last twenty years. In mid 1980’s it was in few thousands, in 1997 it reached one lakh twenty thousand, now it has crossed five lakh mark in 2015. This increase in unprecedented because it was not the natural flow but by the impressed by Hindu nationalists in various states,” Swathi added.
“Now as the numbers have increased, it has no bearing on the Kashmir economy. There is no substantial revenue people generate through yatra. From food to health, all is provided free by the state. Now whatever income it generates, most of its income goes to the economy of states that yatris come from. Kashmirs earn by providing tentwalas, ponywalas, dandiwalas, loadbearers and taxi drivers,” she said.
According to the report, which is one of the over dozen reports produced by JKCCS, the Indian state that directly controls the yatra through its appointed governor, has developed a well planned sustained strategy to make the yatra successful.
“The number of yatris, and period of their stay, has been constructed unilaterally by the state. For instance, in its latest committee for deciding the days of stay, it has skipped the custodian of this yatra who believes that yatra should be concluded in 15 days, an environmentalist, and Kashmir people on whose land the process is done. They have included those who are of the view of extending the period of yatra and not those who hold contrary view,” Swati said.
The other contributors of the report are Kartik Murukutla, Khurram Parvez, and Pervez Imroz.