Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar on Tuesday said there was no pressure on the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on deciding the duration of the Amarnath yatra, which was shortened keeping in view the safety of the pilgrims.
"I would like to clarify to the Shiva Bhaktas who are eager to undertake the yatra that we sincerely wanted to keep the yatra from Jyeshta Purnima onwards. There was no pressure from any individual or organisation on us. It was purely a logistical challenge to ensure the safety of the yatris," the spiritual leader said in a statement.
The yatra calendar this year was fixed by the SASB on the recommendations of a sub-committee headed by Ravishankar.
"We (members of the committee) had a detailed discussion in which the state government and the army presented the weather conditions and the time it takes to clear the path.
"Only after taking serious consideration of the logistics, weather conditions and the preparedness to host thousands of yatris was it decided to commence the yatra towards the end of June, this year," he said.
"We cannot risk the lives of thousands of people without any infrastructure. We want the yatra to be safe and comfortable for people," he added.
The spiritual leader appealed to the state government to make an all-weather road in Baltal so that in the coming years the yatra can be undertaken with greater safety and security.
"I know that due to the past history there is suspicion, but I would like to ensure the people that there is no pressure and that myself and other saints would have stepped down from the Amarnath Shrine Board a long time ago if it were the case," he said.
The SASB and the state government have come under fire from various quarters over the curtailment of the two-month long Amarnath yatra to 39 days this year.
Meanwhile, various political parties and Kashmiri Pandit groups flayed the state government for curtailing the duration of the Amarnath yatra and insisted that the administration and the board "engage in a dialogue" to resolve the issue.
"If Muslims can visit their religious places during any time of the year, if Christians can visit their religious places during any time of the year, why can't the people be allowed to visit Amarnath shrine as per their wish," Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh said.
"On one hand, the state government is asking for repealing of AFSPA, while on the other hand, they want to curtail the yatra under the pretext of security reasons. The inclement weather condition is even worse an excuse as nobody can have control over the weather," he said.
Shiv Sena state president Ashok Gupta said the government should start the yatra when the conditions are conducive but insisted that whenever the pilgrimage begins it should run for at least two months.
Panun Kashmir criticised the Board's decision to curtail the yatra period and demanded that SASB be reconstituted, with its activities restricted to facilitation of the yatra only.
"Amarnath yatra has a long tradition of two months duration. It is because of the political considerations and in particular, in consequence of appeasement policy towards separatist elements, that its duration has been curtailed," Panun Kashmir president Ashwini Churangoo said.
Condemning the arrest of yatris, All Party Migrants Coordination Committee chief Vinod Pandit said, "We appeal to the state government and SASB to engage in a dialogue with all Hindu organisations rather than arresting people...The Board should also include representatives of Kashmiri Pandits in the dialogue as they are one of the major stake holders in the Amarnath yatra."
He also urged SASB to revive the of 300-year-old centre of yatra in Omoh at Verynag area in Anantnag district and all others traditional centres like Pampore and Bigbehara.
Congress MLA from the constituency, G A Mir, said he had also requested Vohra to revive the yatra centre in Omoh.