Amid tight security and apprehension of trouble, the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave began from here and Nunwan camp in Pahalgam on a smooth note on Thursday. Governor N.N. Vohra paid obeisance on the first day of the pilgrimage which will conclude in the last week of August.
Kashmir's head priest and Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has welcomed the yatra and said that the ongoing unrest in Kashmir had nothing to do with the pilgrimage.
According to an official estimate, more than 15,000 pilgrims began their journey to the holy cave of Amarnath from the Baltal base camp near Sonmarg and the Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam. The pilgrims reached Baltal in the early hours to make a beeline to the mountainous track in the Himalayan mountain range.
“We had a smooth trip and we are happy to be here” said Manju, a yatri from Mumbai. She, along with 20 other family members, had begun their journey from Jammu on Wednesday. Most yatris were satisfied with the arrangements and local hospitality.
“More than 7,000 yatris began their uphill 14-km trek at 8 a.m. on Thursday from Baltal to the cave. Another 1,100 yatris left the Manigam transit camp for Baltal,” a senior officer said
So far 1.5 lakh pilgrims have registered and it is expected that the number will cross the half-million mark this year.
The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front slammed the “media and communal groups “for trying to mislead people into believing that Kashmiri Muslims were against the yatra.”
“Kashmiris consider religious tolerance and communal harmony as their foremost assets,” a statement quoted JKLF vice-chairman Ahmad Bhat as having said.