Precious Kashmir News
Srinagar, July 21: Putting at rest all speculations surrounding the annual pilgrimage to holy Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) on Tuesday decided to cancel the pilgrimage due to COVID-19 pandemic, official sources said.
They said the SASB took this decision at a meeting chaired by Lt Governor Murmu, who is also chairman of the board, here this evening.
However, all traditional rituals associated with the pilgrimage will be performed as per age-old traditions. The “Chhari Mubarak”, the holy silver Mace of Lord Shiva, will be taken to the holy cave on August 3 where poja will be held by Mahant Deependra Giri, custodian of the holy mace.
Giving details, an official spokesperson said that Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, chairman of the SASB, presided over 39th Board meeting of the Board on Tuesday in which the members participated virtually through video conference to discuss the conduct of the Yatra 2020.
“The Board discussed the Supreme Court order dated July 13, 2020 in which, the decision to conduct the Yatra was left to the Administration/ Government after assessing the ground realities prevailing in Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
He said the Board was informed that the arrangements were on track since February 2020, but due to nationwide lockdown and pandemic, State Executive Committee, J&K has still continued to keep religious places and places of worship closed for the public, adding these prohibitions would continue till July 31.
“The Board further discussed that pandemic has put the health administration system to its limit. The spike has been particularly very sharp in July. Health Workers and Security Forces are also getting infected and the focus of entire Medical, Civil and Police Administration at the moment is on containing the local transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health concerns are so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the Yatra, will be immense. This would also unnecessarily put the Yatris at risk of catching the COVID-19,” he said.
He said the Board also discussed the decision of High court of J&K in Writ Petition (No CM No. 3022/2020 in WP(C) PIL No 5/2020 in which the Court directed SASB to take a final view in light of order of the SC dated July 13, 2020 and keeping in view the compliance of all healthcare protocols, Standard Operating Protocols notified by the Central Government as well as by the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
“The Board further deliberated the considered views of the Government. The Government made reasoned observations supported by facts which suggested that it would not be advisable to conduct Amarnath Yatra 2020 and it would be advisable to cancel it this year in larger public interest,” he said, adding this would enable the Health, Civil and Police Administrations to focus on the immediate challenges facing them rather than diverting resources, manpower and attention to the conduct of the Yatra.
“Based upon the circumstances, the Board decided with heavy heart that it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year’s Yatra and expressed its regret to announce the cancellation of Yatra 2020,” he said.
He said the Board is aware of and respects the sentiments of millions of devotees and to keep the religious sentiments alive, the Board shall continue the Live Telecast/ Virtual Darshan of the morning and evening Aarti. “The traditional rituals shall be carried out as per past practice. Also, the Chhadi Mubarak shall be facilitated by the Government,” he said.
“The meeting was attended by B V R Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Bipul Pathak, CEO SASB; Anup Kumar Soni, Additional CEO SASB & senior officers of Shrine Board. Threadbare discussion was held on the current circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic and its likely impact on the Yatra,” he added.