Kashmir unrest: Amarnath pilgrims remain stranded

RSTV Bureau
Jammu: Amarnath pilgrims receiving food at a base camp in Jammu on Sunday. Amarnath Yatra remained suspended for the second day on Sunday as no pilgrim was allowed to move from Jammu to Kashmir Valley. PTI Photo

Jammu: Amarnath pilgrims receiving food at a base camp in Jammu on Sunday. Amarnath Yatra remained suspended for the second day on Sunday as no pilgrim was allowed to move from Jammu to Kashmir Valley. PTI Photo

Hundreds of Amarnath pilgrims have been stranded in Srinagar for the past three days as the Srinagar-Jammu national highway continued to remain out of bounds after the valley was hit by clashes and violence. So far, 23 people have been killed in the clashes that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

“We performed the yatra on July 8. Around midnight, we were told to leave the base camp. They told us to leave for Srinagar where buses were waiting for us to take us to Jammu,” Pramod Kumar, a resident of Bihar, said.

Many of the stranded pilgrims complained of poor management by the authorities.

“We have not been told anything after we reached Srinagar. There is no information available. We want to leave for Jammu but do not know how,” Bansi Lal, another pilgrim from Uttar Pradesh said.

Pilgrims also accused private cab drivers of charging exorbitant rates.

But Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganai claimed adequate arrangements were made.

“We arranged 1,700 vehicles for about 24,500 yatris to leave for Jammu. The vehicles left Baltal straight for Jammu and not for Srinagar…Those yatris are on their way to Jammu right now,” Ganai said.

“What I can understand is that they must have been tricked by the cab drivers there. We cleared the last three days’ yatra last night and sent the pilgrims directly to Jammu. Some left the state by air as well…We never told anyone that buses will be waiting in Srinagar,” the Deputy Commissioner said.

The Srinagar-Jammu national highway is closed for traffic as it passes through south Kashmir which has seen the maximum violence following the killing of Wani and his two associates.

Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, and two others were killed on Friday when security forces retaliated after being fired upon by the trio from a house in which they were hiding.

Curfew-like restrictions continue in parts of Kashmir Valley as a precautionary measure. Normal life across the valley has also been paralysed because of a strike called by separatist groups to protest the killings.

(With inputs from PTI)