Kashmiri separatists not to allow pilgrimage, threaten mass agitation

Separatists in Kashmir have objected to a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-supported group’s plans to conduct a pilgrimage to a cave in Kashmir where Shaivite philosopher Abhinavgupta is said to have renounced the world.

The opposition has cast a shadow on the ongoing yearlong celebrations to mark the 1,000 years of Abhinavgupta’s renunciation. The celebrations are being organised by the RSS supported Jammu Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) in association with the Art of Living under the aegis of the Acharya Abhinavgupt Sheshadri Samaroh Samiti.

The RSS is seen as the ideological fountainhead of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that runs a coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. As celebrations kicked off in February this year, a yatra was scheduled to take place on June 11 to the cave in Beerwah in Budgam, where the 10th-century philosopher along with his few followers is believed to have entered a state of intense meditation before dying.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference chief Syed Ali Geelani told media persons on Thursday that the yatra was a “deliberate attempt to disturb the peaceful environment” in the state. Geelani challenged the claims of the group Samiti’s that the cave is of historical and religious significance.

Organisers, who traversed across the country over the past few months raising awareness about the philosopher, said they will go ahead with the yatra, despite the opposition. “We expect the state government to ensure that the yatra is conducted peacefully,” a Sangh functionary said. He said the state government should do its bit to promote the legacy of Abhinavgupta who authored over 70 books, including a commentary on poetry, drama, dance and music.

“We don’t expect the separatists to act differently, but we will conduct a public programme on Acharya Abhinavagupta. On June 11, a small group of people will travel to the cave to offer floral tributes. There is no agenda or a plan to upset anyone or any group,” a functionary of the JKSC said. The celebrations took off after RSS threw its weight behind the programme to highlight contribution of Abhinavgupta.

At the end of the Sangh’s annual meet at Ranchi in 2015, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi described him as “a great philosopher and literary critic” and “the tallest scholar of Shaiva philosophy”. Joshi said it would be a “true homage to Acharya Abhinavgupta to enlighten the whole world, especially the youth of Kashmir, with the life and deeds of the legend who interpreted the ancient spiritual and cultural heritage of Kashmir in a new unifying philosophy with the challenges of times, in this era of ideological fanaticism.”

This is not the first time that separatists have opposed a programme of religious significance to the Hindus in the valley. In 2014, the valley was on the boil after Pandits were stopped from undertaking a yatra to Kousar Nag, in the Pir Panchal mountain range, following protests by locals and separatists.

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