Such is the resilience of the Amarnath pilgrims that within hours of Monday's attack on a bus by militants, hundreds of devotees set off for the shrine amid stepped up security. The number of pilgrims undertaking the arduous journey is only expected to increase further.
"Another batch of 3,791 yatris left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in 101 vehicles, including 55 buses and 46 light motor vehicles for the valley around 4 am on Wednesday in an escorted convoy," a Hindustan Times report quoted a police source as saying.
"The yatra is progressing smoothly and the terror attack has not dampened the spirits of the pilgrims," an official quoted by PTI said.
Even at the Amarnath Yatri reception centre, the pilgrims exhibited little fear or anxiety, according to a report in The Indian Express. The predominant sentiment among the pilgrims is an unshakable belief in the government's security umbrella.
The bus carrying the pilgrims on Monday was neither registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board nor had it adhered to the security detail which is compulsory for the pilgrims in view of the terror threat.
Even the people onboard the bus had completed the yatra two days back and were in Srinagar since then, deviating from the vehicular part of the Amarnath yatra route which is between Pahalgam and Jammu.
Further, the bus was on its way to Jammu at night, which is not permissible. Keeping in view these security lapses, the other registered pilgrims are unfazed by the terror attack. "From what I have heard, the yatris who were attacked were not registered as pilgrims, and they were not part of the convoy. When the government is providing security, why should we take the risk of going by ourselves," Santosh Kumar was quoted in The Indian Express report.
"No fear at all. If they kill 60 yatris, we will bring 70. They want to scare us but that fear is missing. We will complete our yatra with the grace of the almighty," said another pilgrim to India Today.
Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra convened an emergency meeting to review the security situation and a spokesperson told The Times of India that in the meeting, it was decided that the pilgrimage shall continue without any diminution whatsoever.
This rise in the number of Amarnath pilgrims in the face of the terror attack and at a time when militancy is at its peak in Kashmir is explained by a report published by Equations, a sustainable tourism advocacy group in Bengaluru, and the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar. Titled 'Amarnath Yatra: A Militarized Pilgrimage', the report suggests that the Amarnath yatra was promoted as an assertion of Hindu heritage, as The Wire explains.
The authors of the report recount their experience of the yatra and say that slogans such as 'Hindustan mei rehna hai bum bum Bhole kehna hai'. The report suggests that the Amarnath yatra is seen as a nationalist claim on Kashmir and an assertion of the Hindu religion.
Until the 1980s, not more than a few thousand people annually made the journey. The number of yatris eventually grew from 2,000 in 1980 to 42,000 in 1985. The report suggests that the growth has continued and uncannily shadows events linked to the resurgence of the Hindu right in India.
The yatris waiting to go to the yatra say that any attempt to block the pilgrimage would only double their faith. The Amarnath pilgrims and their unquestioning faith in religion seem to reaffirm the contents of the report.
"We are all finally dependent on Bhole Baba. If something bad has to happen, it could happen sitting at home also. There is nothing to fear at all," The Indian Express report quoted a pilgrim as saying.
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 14:33 PM