Amarnath Yatra likely to be called off amid Covid crisis

The second wave of the pandemic has pushed the death toll in J&K to 3222and starved hospitals of life-saving medical oxygen and beds.

Jammu: The governing body of the annual 56-day Amarnath yatra to the cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas is seriously considering for cancelation pilgrimage in the backdrop of COVID crisis.

There have been calls for calling off or curtailing the pilgrimage, which was cancelled last year, and is scheduled from June 28 to August 22. Political and religious gatherings have been cited among the reasons for the worst surge of Covid-19 infections that India faces.

The second wave of the pandemic has pushed the death toll in J&K to 3222and starved hospitals of life-saving medical oxygen and beds.

In such a situation, only Mahant Deependra Giri of the Dashanami Akhada, the patron of the holy Chari Mubarak, will be able to go with for the annual worship of Baba Barfani in the holy cave according to the Sanatan traditions.

Last year too, he went with a few devotees for the worship of the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave.

However, the final decision will be taken only in the meeting of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, to be chaired by Lieutenant Governor Manage Sinha.

Apart from a few board members, a section of the state administration is insisting on allowing a limited number of devotees to visit the holy cave through helicopters.

“The SASB [Shri Amarnath Shrine Board] has temporarily suspended the registration of pilgrims in view of the spike in Covid 19 cases. There has been no decision yet to call off the pilgrimage,” said an official, requesting anonymity. “…decisions [such as calling off the pilgrimage] are taken at the board meeting. …last year, the pilgrimage was cancelled on July 21 because of the rise in Covid 19 cases.”

The official said the final decision will depend on how the Covid situation evolves. “Our intention is that if the situation improves, we will try and conduct the pilgrimage strictly in accordance with the Covid… [protocols].”

The SASB last year arranged a live telecast of rituals from the cave shrine of Amarnath. In 2019, the pilgrimage was curtailed ahead of the nullification of Jammu & Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status as the erstwhile state was locked down and a communications blackout was imposed.

In 2018, 285,006 pilgrims undertook the pilgrimage, and this year the government has been making arrangements for 600,000 devotees, officials said. On Tuesday, Jammu & Kashmir reported 25 Covid-19 deaths that pushed the toll from the pandemic to 2,197 in the region.


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