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Rediff.com  » News » Row over 'Kousar Nag' yatra sparks unrest in Kashmir

Row over 'Kousar Nag' yatra sparks unrest in Kashmir

August 02, 2014 00:54 IST

Row over 'Kousar Nag' yatra sparks unrest in Kashmir

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday denied revoking permission to Kousar Nag yatra, saying no permission had been sought or granted in the first place.

The National Conference government maintained that “Kousar Nag has never been a pilgrimage site”. “It has been an adventure tourism site and a picnic spot,” a senior state tourism department officer said.

He strongly denied that any individual or organisation had sought permission for the yatra.

“The question of granting or denying permission to the yatra does not arise at all. Succumbing to any pressure as such is out of question,” he added.

A Kashmiri Pandit body had recently announced that around 4,000 pilgrims would undertake the six day pilgrimage to Kousar Nag in south Kashmir beginning July 29. 

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Image: A view of the Kousar Nag lake in South Kashmir's Kulgam district
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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Meanwhile, spokesperson of the moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference on Friday expressed serious concern over “designating Kousar Nag as a new yatra destination”.

He said that “government by doing so has acted in haste to please Hindu extremist elements in order to gain their sympathies”.

The spokesman said that Hurriyat has always been strong advocate of communal harmony, and has passionately been pleading for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their ancestral homes besides calling for the protection of religious places of the Pandits.

He said it is “strange that some elements all of a sudden have discovered Kousar Nag as a pilgrimage site which otherwise everybody knows as a famous tourist destination”.

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Image: Protestors clash with police in Srinagar on Friday
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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Row over 'Kousar Nag' yatra sparks unrest in Kashmir

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The hard-line separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had called for post-Friday prayer protests and a shutdown on Saturday, in a statement said, “Communal forces in India are hell-bent upon disturbing peace in Kashmir and destroy environment, identity, culture and other values of the state.”

“Kousar Nag is a very important source of drinking water for millions of people. The presence of large number of people at this location will not only endanger this important source of water but prove dangerous and destructive for the fragile environment of the region.” 

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Image: Tourists making their way to Kousar Nag lake in South Kashmir
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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Kousar Nag is located in the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountain range situated at a height of 12,140 feet above sea level. The lake is 2 kilometres in area, surrounded by snow capped mountains in the southern Kulgam district.

It is one of the highest altitude lake of Kashmir situated on a cliff nearly 145 kms from summer capital Srinagar. The lake shimmers with fresh, crystal clear glacial waters.

A local historian says that groups of Pandits used to undertake the yatra one month ahead of the annual Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir during early Mughal era.

“Small groups of Pandits would trek to the area. I have myself undertaken the journey in 1988 along with a group of ten other fellow Pandits,” he said wishing anonymity.

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Image: Protestors pelt stones at security personnel during clashes in Srinagar on Friday
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Kashmiri Overseas Association said that ‘Kashmiri Pandits should be allowed to proceed with their annual peaceful, religious yatra to Kousar Nag’.

Police had on Wednesday foiled a march to the lake by villagers of the adjoining areas leading to clashes between them and the police.

The security forces had to use repeated baton charges and fire tear smoke canisters to disperse the protestors from marching ahead. Several persons were injured in the clashes.

Clashes also erupted at several places after the Friday prayers.

In 2008 the state witnessed months of unrest following Amarnath land row agitation. The state government had to finally rescind the order of allotment of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on north Kashmir’s Baltel route.

 


Image: A view of the hills surrounding Kousar Nag lake
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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