SRI NAGAR: Rejecting the separatists’ call to cut down the duration of annual Amarnath Yatra, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and senior BJP leader Jitendra Singh on Thursday said the pilgrimage, as per the scientific evidence, didn’t hurt the ecology and asserted that there was no embargo on the yatra.
“We have a geological survey report and scientific evidence, which say Amarnath Yatra can be held round the year without any threat to environment or ecology of South Kashmir Himalayas. Scientific evidence has shown no impact of the yatra on ecology,” he told reporters at a press conference here.
The duration of the Amarnath Yatra this year is 59 days and it will begin on July 2.
Hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani and other separatist leaders were demanding to bring down the duration of Amarnath Yatra to prevent any damage to the ecology.
“There was no embargo on the duration of yatra to the cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas and the duration is determined by the auspicious time,” the minister said, adding that the pilgrimage takes place in the two auspicious months as per the Hindu calendar.
He further said the dates have been finalised by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and they (the government) would not interfere in the religious affairs.
Jitendra pointed out that the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, along with his newly married bride Kamala, had undertaken the Amarnath pilgrimage in February-March.
Stating that the environmental concerns were genuine, he, however, said, “Separatists are trying to politicise the issue but we won’t let that happen.”
On a question about revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the minister said the final word (on scraping the law) should come from the security agencies and not from any political functionary.
“If they (security agencies) feel there is an improvement in the situation or time is not ripe for revocation of AFSPA in J&K, then we should not create an issue,” he said, adding that the political functionary on top post could only give suggestions on the issue but could not be a deciding factor.
The Ministry of Defence and the Army were not in favour of lifting the AFSPA from J&K.