Is Yatra becoming more political than spiritual?
For centuries together, Kashmir has been portraying a true picture of secular values and traditions. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have been living here like true brothers. The unprecedented Communal harmony is enough to endorse the fact that Kashmir’s are peace loving, compassionate and religiously tolerant people. The blend of Sufism and Shivism has produced the greats like Lal Ded who is equally respected and revered by both Muslims and Hindus. Lalvaakhs and Shaikhe Shruk are sung with love and reverence, by both the religious communities of the valley. The mausoleum of Shaikh Hamza Makhdoom (RA), the Sharika Temple at Hariparbat Hillock and the Chhati Paadshahi Gurdwara near kathi Darwaza are complimenting each other. Awraadi Fatihah, Leelah and Gurbani are chanted simultaneously across the Mosques, temples and Gurudwaras of the valley. Such rare instances are hardly seen in other multi-religious societies of the world. Eid and Hehrath ( Mahashivratri ) are celebrated by Muslims and Hindus together. Muslim friends of Kashmiri Hindus won't forget to extend felicitations to them on their different festive occasions, and Hindu friends of Kashmiri Muslims will definitely pay a visit to their residences on Eid and other festivals.
Even three decades old turmoil could not harm this religious and secular harmony. With the unfortunate exodus of kashmiri Pandits from the valley, the Hindu brethren which didn't leave the valley, never felt the void and vacuum because kashmiri Muslims continued to be an integral part of their lives. They treat them their brothers as they were treated earlier. Kashmiri Muslims still perform the last rites of their Hindu brothers if there is no one to carry out the funeral. Muslim women sing and dance in the Pandit marriages like they used to do so in the past. It is a slap for those Communal fanatics who are hell-bent to incite Communal trouble in the valley, sometimes in the name of Amarnath Yatra and sometimes in the name of cow.
The land of Sufis and Munis is known for its composite religious traditions. And Amaranth Yatra is one such tradition which is not only synonymous to Kashmiriyat but a source of great Communal harmony and unity. Kashmiri Muslims have been hosting these pilgrims with great verve and love. They have exhibited unparalleled hospitality to these Yatris. We remember scores of incidents when sick and injured Yatris were taken care of by kashmiri Muslims. The armed resistance in Kashmir Valley has never halted this religious activity or harmed it, though attempts were made by our foes to malign the secular traditions of kashmiris, when in a rare incident, a Yatri bus was pelted with stones. This attack was surely carried out by Communals who want to tear apart the secular fabric of the valley. But the most appealing part about our religious tolerance is that we carry these guest pilgrims on our shoulders. Thousands of ailing, weak and old Yatris are carried in sedans by Kashmiris Muslims. They provide them with food, medicine and other necessary things at high altitude mountain peaks; where a shop and a restaurant are beyond the imagination of a man. And media houses particularly national television channels never bother to give coverage to this beautiful side Kashmiriat. They always portray the ugly side of the story. They draw a fanatic image of Kashmiris in the minds of the rest of the country which is untrue about kashmiri Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims have always extended their best possible help to these Yatris in case there is any accident or eventuality.
The Yatra for 2019 has already begun but the incumbent governor administration has made some unnecessary and obnoxious changes. Halting civilian traffic on Srinagar Jammu national high way for hours together, and putting curbs on the movement of rail services is highly unfortunate. Providing security to these pilgrims is the duty of our government, but it should not be at the cost of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. It will not only add to the miseries of commuters and will certainly malign the secular Character of Kashmiris. Such attempts will widen the gap, and increase the trust deficit between the ruler and the ruled.
Authorities should have taken steps to bridge the gap, unfortunately, they resort to ‘breach of trust’ and belief. Yatra was never halted nor were any official curbs in place during the 90s when the valley was the hub of militancy. Even these pilgrims never hesitated to attend the Yatra which shows their staunch belief and trust on secular kashmir and Kashmiris. There is no fear in the minds of these pilgrims because they know that Kashmiris treat them as their loving guests.
One more noticeable change about this year's Amarnath Yatra is the decreased number of woman pilgrims. One fails to understand that what stopped the female pilgrims from visiting the holy shrine. Are there any vested interests poisoning the minds of Indian masses about visiting Kashmir? According to surveys and researches, no single episode of violence stands registered against tourists and visitors during the turmoil in the valley. Kashmir is the safest place for visitors across the whole Asia despite being a political conflict. Lesser number of woman pilgrims in this year's Amarnath Yatra has raised many eyebrows. I wish that it is a mere coincidence, and there is no conspiracy hatched against this religious ritual which helps the two communities to complement each other.
State government should withdraw the decree with immediate effect to restrict the movement on civilian traffic. Though the State government is bound to provide a safe passage to the Yatra but it should not destroy our secular Character. Let the pilgrimage be apolitical, and government acts like a facilitator. Curbs and restrictions on different modes of traffic should be revoked. Kashmiris will leave no stone unturned to serve their guest pilgrims as they used to serve them earlier. Hope that the concerned stakeholders will understand the gravity of the situation and allow Yatra to continue without any political motives.
(Author is Teacher and a Columnist)