Tampering with nature is sure to bring serious consequences. Nature has no compassion and accepts no excuses. The only punishment it knows is death and devastation. That is how it punished it violators in Uttarakhand some years back. More than 1000 people were reported dead in the nature’s fury in the hill state besides rendering populous and prosperous cities and localities into ruins and wrecks. There is common agreement among all shades of opinion and administration that the worst-ever tragedy was the outcome of man’s fight with nature. There is another fight going on between nature and man in Kashmir as the Himalayan hill state is playing host to lakhs of people for Amarnath pilgrimage. The misplaced religious passion driven by long arm of political and communal considerations has turned this otherwise a low-key religious affair into a great show of state and majoritarian power. Until some years, Amarnath pilgrimage was a monotonous modest religious event, which would last for less than two weeks. But over the years, the event has turned into a political one where the state is using it as a means to demonstrate its power and prowess. People in lakhs are motivated and facilitated to take the pilgrimage to the cave temple in the serene and ecologically fragile mountains through Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
It is quite sad to note that every unique setting—quiet valleys, lush green locales and gushing streams of chaste mineral water all have been put to huge threat of human intervention. Last year around over 3 lakh pilgrims kept on disturbing the ecological balance in the region for 39 days. This year the pilgrimage has been lengthened to two months, and the number of pilgrims is sure to be more by another two to three lakhs. Imagine the spoil and smash, the prolonged and massive human intervention is likely to cause in the sensitive environs. Some years back the state government formed a Board, through legislation, to regulate and discipline the yatra with Governor being the ex-officio chairman of the Board. But it is a grim reality that the Board worked as a state tool to politicize the pilgrimage. Former Governor S K Sinha tried his every nerve to spin the religious affair into a colonial master plan, where political considerations ran supreme with no regard to ecological concerns. Unfortunately, this mindset still persists, and the managers of the pilgrimage are still guided by political considerations. This is bound to have a disastrous effect on the ecological balance in the area. Glaciers in the area are melting. Wild animals have shifted from the habitats and the water resources and the gushing streams have got polluted. Environmental experts have already sounded caution of the looming disaster.
But the politics behind yatra continues to be on the mind of powers that be. It is generally understood that this is an attempt by communal forces to establish their writ on Kashmir, where voices of political dissent are often ardently raised. The way the political and power establishment is trying to meet the Kashmir voices is in all probabilities fraught with serious risks. It appears that a psychological war is being waged against people of Kashmir. Given the fears among people and unnecessary intervention in nature’s set-up, one has every reason to feel frightened. The tragedy in Uttarakhund should serve as a food for thought for the powers that be and instead of moving on the issue politically, they should have taken into consideration, at least, environmental concerns while executing their political plans in Kashmir. It is time to take a politics-free call on this grave issue and instead regulate the Amarnath yatra, and limit the number of yatris and yatra period to safeguard the environment in the best interests of overall humanity.