Amarnath yatra duration cut in view of weather

Jammu: Ruling out pressure from separatists for the decision to reduce the duration of annual Amarnath yatra, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) on Thursday said it was taken keeping in view the weather conditions evaluated during the past several years.

To a question about the cut in the duration of the yatra due to separatists` call and Syed Ali Shah Geelani`s threat, SASB member Ved Kumari Ghai said these reports are "totally false".

"Reduction of the duration of the Amarnath yatra was not taken under any pressure or influence from any quarter. It was duly taken after taking into consideration the weather conditions prevailing in the first fortnight of yatra during the past few years and to avoid inconvenience to pilgrims", Ghai told reporters here today.

Flanked by another member Justice G D Sharma and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Board R K Goyal, Ghai said the decision regarding duration and schedule of the yatra along Chandanwari and Baltal routes was taken after extensive discussions at a meeting on February 18.

The meeting took into consideration all related factors which are important for ensuring safe and smooth conduct of the pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath at an altitude of 13,500 feet in unpredictable weather conditions, she said.

She said the yatra was held for 19 days in 1995, 15 days in 1996, 32 days in 1997, 38 days in 1998, 40 days in 1999, 30 days in 2000, 32 days in 2001 before the formation of Board.

Replying to the question of threat given by community kitchen people to stop organizing community kitchens for yatra if it is prolonged for two months, Ghai said "they cannot dictate us. It is for us to decide. They are nobody to decide the Board`s affairs".

She said the yatra would start on June 29 and will conclude on August 13.