The way BJP and RSS are pushing their agendas in Muslim majority Kashmir overtly and covertly is dangerous. It is like lighting a pier while sitting at the top.
Last time when BJP was in power, it transformed a simple one-day festival held in Leh into a full-fledged religious pilgrim now known as Sindu Darshan yatra.
The festival started as a daylong “event of national pride” in which people from India would bring water from different rivers and drop it into Sindh River.
But under the watchful eyes of then deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, the ‘yatra’ gained prominence as it figured among BJP’s top priorities.
During BJP’s six years rule Advani is said to have attended the festival/yatra almost regularly. It is he who was instrumental in handing over the command of this yatra to RSS entirely and systematically, thus leaving both Kashmir government and local administration powerless!
The way in which these yatras are politicised for electoral gains is painful. It serves nobody’s interest. Ironically state government on its part is acting as a mute spectator while the environment is vandalized in the garb of pilgrimage. Take for instance the recently started Kounsar Nag yatra which passes through some of the virgin forests and concludes at the pristine lake. The lake, now at the centre of controversy, is the source of fresh water for people living in south Kashmir. The controversial one week long Kounsar Nag yatra, which will see some 4 thousand people visiting the place, is sure to destabilize the fragile ecology of the place. The areas inhabited on way to Kounsar Nag feel threatened by the increased human intervention as they have lived amidst nature for centuries, peacefully. But the way government is allowing human intervention in deep forests for sake of religion says a lot about its concern for nature.
On the other hand, the way Kashmiri pandits are politicising Kounsar Nag yatra while neglecting its environmental repercussion is sad. In almost all folklores, it is the Kashmiris pandits who have been at the forefront in preserving the water bodies in their respective areas. But this time around it’s the vote-bank politics that is given preference over environment.
With shrinking natural resources, melting glaciers and lack of fresh waters available for the natives, one more yatra, that too directly fiddling with water-source, could prove catastrophic.
The way annual Amarnath yatra was politicised and its duration was extended, without any regard for environment, shows the seriousness of organizers towards ecology.
Every year after the yatra is concluded thousands of tons of non-biodegradable waste is left behind by lakhs of pilgrims, which then ends up in the water bodies, putting lives of locals at risk.
Once the yatra is done nobody is concerned about the place or the people till next year. Since long environmentalist have cried their hearts out warning authorities of consequences of such huge human intervention in deep forests, but who cares!
With eye on votes nothing else seems to matter.