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Tell-tale photos bare Shrine Board lies!

Author: Mohit Kandhar
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 9, 2012
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/home/online-channel/360-todays-newspaper/71721-tell-tale-photos-bare-shrine-board-lies.html

Under attack from various religious bodies over the issue of curtailed yatra period, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) is wary of sharing the ‘real’ picture of the holy cave shrine located in Anantnag.

The two different sets of pictures shot recently by the the SASB authorities and the mountaineers of the Jammu & Kashmir Police differ in content. The photos taken by the SASB indicate that the route to the holy shrine is covered in snow, while the other picture shows that route is clear. This has raised a question mark over the ‘real’ intention behind SASB censoring the pictures taken by the mountaineers.

Large number of pictures accessed by The Pioneer puts the Shrine Board authorities in the dock as they had claimed in their official statements on June 4 that the holy cave area and the yatra track were covered in 5-10 ft of snow. After March 15, 2012, Pahalgam has not witnessed a fresh spell of snowfall.

The weathermen in Kashmir also clarified that in the absence of any observatory in the higher reaches, it was not possible to quantify the extent of accumulation of snow in and around holy cave area situated at a height if 13,500 ft above sea level.

Texts of the press statement issued by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from Banglore on June 4 and released by the Shrine Board along with the latest picture of the holy cave on June 5 clearly stated, “As of today i.e June 4, there is 5-10 feet of uncleared snow. We cannot risk the lives of thousands of people without any infrastructure. We want the yatra to be safe and comfortable for people. Better toilet and medical facilities are being planned for this year. Even on Jyestha Purnima day, the symbolic Puja could not be held in the cave due to snow. It was done in Chandanwari glacier.”

To pacify agitated religious groups spearheading the campaign against the curtailment of yatra period, the Shrine Board had released set of pictures of the cave shrine and the snowbound yatra to drive home their point.

The first set of pictures showcasing snowbound yatra track was released by the SASB on May 31, 2012. One of the pictures (shot on board the State chopper) captured the front view of the holy cave. White patches of snow were visible all over the place in this picture. Then again on June 5 the SASB authorities released two pictures to silence the protests organised by the VHP in Jammu.

One of pictures again displayed snow-covered ‘front view’ of the holy cave. The picture gave an aerial view of the holy cave. The exact dates on which the pictures were shot were not mentioned in the press statements of the SASB.

In contrast, the pictures shot by the mountaineers of the Jammu & Kashmir Police, which undertook the journey on foot along the Baltal route on June 2 and submitted their report to the State DGP, showed signs of melting snow in and around the holy cave area.

The front view of the cave, with minor traces of snow and the steps connecting the holy cave are shown to be totally snow free ridiculing the claims of accumulation of 5-10 ft of snow. Even the blue coloured iron grill fixed along the steps was clearly seen with the naked eye in the picture shot from a close distance of the holy cave. Interestingly, the SASB authorities are yet to release these images of the holy cave.

Earlier, in the run up to the impasse over the actual date of yatra this year, the shrine board authorities carried out series of aerial surveys where Chairman of the board, Governor NN Vohra, himself took stock of the situation and issued directions to expedite the snow-clearing operations.

The SASB had fixed June 25 as the date of yatra while Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) led socio-religious organisations were adamant on undertaking the pilgrimage on the auspicious occasion of Jyestha Purnima i.e June 4.

For three consecutive days large number of ‘unregistered’ devotees who assembled here to participate in the parallel yatra courted arrest in Jammu after they were prevented from moving further by the district administration.

Even spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who headed the sub-committee to decide the schedule of yatra, appealed to the devotees not to agitate or court arrest as the decision to start the yatra in the last week of June was taken after holding discussions and taking stock of the logistics involved in the smooth conduct of the yatra. State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also kicked up a storm on the micro blogging site while responding to a follower: “Actually, right now God is stopping you because there is so much snow on the route that it is not possible to move on the route.”

Regular visitors to the cave shrine told The Pioneer, when lakhs of devotees perform darshan of the ice lingam even then the track of the yatra remain dotted with patches of ice.
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