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Hindu group demands setting up of shrine board to manage annual Machail Yatra in Kishtwar

Bhadarwah , Aug 26: A Hindu body has demanded setting up of a board on the lines of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to manage the annual Machail Yatra in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
The 43-day yatra commenced on July 25 and so far over 2.20 lakh pilgrims have visited the revered shrine and performed ‘darshan’ at Chandi Mata Dham in Machail.
The demand by Shri Sanatan Dharam Sabha (SSDS) comes days after two groups involved in the annual yatra allegedly clashed at the temple to take over management of the shrine.
“We demand a high-level inquiry into the incident which has hurt the sentiments of the devotees and stress for creation of shrine board on the pattern of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board,” president SSDS, Bhaderwah, Ved Kumar Kotwal told reporters here.
The Machail Yatra, started in 1981 by head priest Thakur Kulbir Singh, was managed by the Sarv Shakti Sevak Sanstha (SSSS) till 2013. But after reports of embezzlement of funds and some issues with other members surfaced, the main priest disassociated himself and formed Sarv Shakti Shri Chandi Mata Ji Mandir Chenote Trust Bhadarwah in 2013, while Randhir Singh Parihar alias Raju Guru of Kishtwar took control of the SSSS.
The rift between the two organisations over the control of annual pilgrimage widened over the last few years. This year, the SSSS reportedly stopped the other group led by priest Deshveer Singh from placing the holy mace in the form of trident (trishul), which they had taken from Bhadarwah in the form of a procession as per tradition, at the temple.
Singh was allegedly attacked by members of the other group due to which rituals could not be performed. Subsequently, the yatra returned without the holy mace to the base camp at Bhadarwah.
Taking a strong exception to the matter, Kotwal said Machail Yatra was started by Singh with a handful of devotees and “it is because of his honesty, dedication and spiritual powers” that the annual pilgrimage has attracted lakhs of pilgrims from across the country in the last 38 years.
“It is unfortunate that some unscrupulous elements for their vested interest created a scene there, as a result of which the yatra returned without ‘Charri Mubarak’ (holy mace) for the first time, which has badly hurt the sentiments of the devotees,” he said.
He said the series of events indicate that the whole episode was “pre-planned to perhaps to hush-up the scandal”.
“The Governor should immediately order creation of a shrine board to manage Machail Yatra to restore the sanctity of the pilgrimage,” Kotwal added.
SSDS General Secretary Neeraj Singh Manhas alleged that the local police and civil administration “maintained a slack attitude despite being informed well in advance about the notorious designs of the unscrupulous elements” that have planned to create trouble during pilgrimage.