Amarnath Yatra: The fears are not misplaced … (I)

Note: Some three weeks before an article (an open letter) appeared in though the letter was addressed to Syed Ali Shah Geelani but there was a sinister design to malign the resistance movement. Following is the response to the Mudhu’s article

            It is in response to an ‘open letter’ to Hurayat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani by Madhu Purnima Kishwar, a human rights activists and member of Kashmir committee headed by Ram Jethmalani, a legal luminary and former BJP parliament member.
                That the author herself and ‘plenty of people in India’ share their concern for the environment damage caused due to unrestricted and unregulated Yatra to Amarnath cave is a joy for us and we value their support. Thanks a lot. The esteemed author has given vent to her eco-friendly sensibilities much in tune with what the civil society in Kashmir, media, environmentalists and pro-freedom leadership have been raising the alarm bells for. Her articulation blended with reason and historical evidence has vindicated our stand on Yatra and malicious propaganda of Hindu communal forces. Her strong advocacy shows that ours are genuine apprehensions and we are perched on the moral high. A legitimate issue conscious Indians are lending their ears to.
                As one of the devotee to the holy cave, the author is aghast on keeping the show of darshan beyond 15 days, for, as she says, the ‘shivlingam in the cave is made of natural ice and appears only for 15 days’. She raises an important question on ‘illusion’ of having darshan of shivlingam created through artificial means.
                The ice-lingam (phallic symbol of Lord Shiva) is formed naturally with an ice stalagmite, which waxes and wanes with the moon. The cave, where the lingam is formed, is situated in narrow gorge at the far end of the Lidder valley and nestled in the bosom of Thajwas and Kolahai glaciers at an altitude of 3888 meters. Here the temperature is always at sub-zero level. Heavy influx of uncontrolled Yatrees apart from devastating  the fragile ecology of the area has, much to the disappointment of the devotees thronging the cave from all over India, at times been a cause to the melting of the lingam itself. In June 2006, Mahant Dependra Giri, custodian of the mace of Lord Shiva, registered his anger against the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board for having put on display the artificial Shivlingam. He had demanded probe by a Supreme Court judge on this black-mail of religious sentiments by the board.
                It is a matter of satisfaction for us that the Madhu Kishwar is critical of the ‘ill-conceived political move’ of former puppet ruler Farooq Abdullah in his role of creating SASB. She is also critic of the sinister designs of the former governor Lt. Gen (retd) S K Sinha in ‘communalizing’ the Yatra. With these favorable atmospheric all around and a son-in-law treatment accorded to it from authorities, both in Delhi and Srinagar, the SASB has been doped to carve a state within a state and thus challenge the writ of the state government. We also thank Madhu Jee for welcoming the suggestion that Yatra management should be handed over to the local Kashmiri Pandiths, as has been the tradition earlier. The suggestion in itself reflects the communal harmony of Muslims of the valley and the tolerance towards their Hindu brethren. In fact, this demand has been finding its takers in Kashmiri Pandiths as well as has been reflected in the statement of well known Pandith leader and eminent doctor Sameer Kaul.
That said and done, there are certain points Madhu raised and which need to be answered in right perspective to clear the misgivings.
                We believe that Yatra is a simple spiritual act of piety on part of a devotee who pays obeisance for a deity he/she holds in great reverence and kneels down in submission before her. Why should that innocently innocuous faith manifestation make people apprehensive? Valleyitees have welcomed Amarnath pilgrims even in troubled times. They made them feel safe at their homes, despite themselves feeling the brunt of lawless parallel regime of AFSPA and PSA.
                One need not be at the ideological and political turf of Geelani, but one thing is crystal clear: To read communalism in Geelani is to belittle oneself. He can be called ‘hard core’, ‘extremist’ for his principled stand on Kashmir but he has fully insulated himself against the virus of communalism. Ask Jethmalani and the Mahants who meet Geelani.