Friday 21 October 2016

Kounsarnag Row: J&K Govt Distances Itself Amid BJP Attacks


A day after protests by locals against reported plans to start an annual yatra in Kounsarnag area in the Valley, BJP and a Kashmiri Pandit outfit alleged that authorities were carrying forward "separatists' agenda", even as the state government distanced itself from the issue.

"We had not given any permission to any yatra in Kounsarnag area so the question of suspending it under separatists' pressure does not arise," Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister G A Mir told PTI here.

Delegations of Kashmiri Pandit organisations today met Union Minister Jitendra Singh today seeking the Centre's intervention in allowing a pilgrimage to Kounsarnag Lak in South Kashmir, a day after locals had protested against the event.

Kashmiri Pandit community, including All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) and Kashmiri Samiti, accused Jammu and Kashmir government of cancelling the permission for the pilgrimage but the state administration claimed no such permission had been given.

The recent act of first granting permission for Kaunsarnag lake and later withdrawing it after protests from separatist groups like Hurriyat Conference "has hurt the sentiments of Hindus in general and Kashmiri Pandits in particular, APMCC claimed in statement after meeting Singh.

Singh, after meeting various delegations, said "it is our considered belief that there should be least amount of interference from government in the matter of faith. On the contrary, the government should rather try to facilitate such pilgrimages."

Regretting that a message had gone that the Yatra had been cancelled under pressure on extraneous considerations or pressures, Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, said he would be submitting the memorandum of Kashmiri Pandit groups to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and request him to take an appropriate view on it.

He appealed to the state government to review the decision and ensure that the issue does not lead to any kind of sectarian or social strife particularly in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir. 

"That is our responsibility which all of us owe irrespective of our party affiliations," said Singh, a Lok Sabha member from Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur constituency.

Jammu and Kashmir government said no permission had been granted for the proposed yatra to Kounsarnag and as such the question of succumbing to separatist pressure does not arise.

"We had not given any permission to any yatra to Kounsarnag area, so the question of suspending the area under separatist pressure does not arise," state Tourism Minister G A Mir said in Srinagar.

The Yatra used to begin in May and culminate on 'Naag Panchami' but after the onset of militancy, small batches were sent from Reasi area of Jammu region for performing the 'puja' at the Lake. A group of yatris, however, performed puja today and were escorted back from Reasi area in Jammu.

Hundreds of residents of Aharbal and its surrounding areas staged a protest and marched towards Kounsarnag area of Kulgam district yesterday after a local newspaper reported that the Reasi district administration was planning to facilitate the annual yatra to Kounsarnag where a pristine lake is situated and that a temple may be built.

There was opposition from various quarters including residents, environmentalists, civil society groups and separatists with hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani calling for a shutdown on Saturday.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu stepped into the Kashmir valley the first time at this place only and the water in the lake comes out at five places in the Lake signifying the five fingers of the Lord Vishnu.

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