The prevailing unrest in the Kashmir valley has cast a shadow on the annual Amarnath yatra as a smallest batch of 85 pilgrims today left the Jammu base camp for their onward journey to the holy cave shrine of Lord Shiva in south Kashmir Himalayas.
“Today’s batch was the smallest in number among all the batches that left the Jammu base camp since the start of the annual pilgrimage this year,” sources said. In the first 20 days, the yatra had remained suspended for five days due to tension in Kashmir. On July 12, the largest batch of 4,052 pilgrims left the base camp, from where the first batch was flagged off by Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh onJuly 1.
During the violence, Amarnath pilgrims had allegedly been targeted by protesters. The Deputy Chief Minister, however, had claimed that there was no attack on Amarnath pilgrims during the protests—a statement that had drawn sharp criticism for him.
This year’s 48-day-long Amarnath yatra had commenced simultaneously on both the routes, Pahalgam and Baltal, from July 2 and would culminate on Raksha Bandhan, that is, August 17. Kashmir had been witnessing widespread violent protests since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir on July 8. This year around 220,000 pilgrims have made it to the Amarnath cave shrine located 3,888 meters above sea level in the Himalayas.