A day after protests by locals against reported plans to start an annual yatra in Kousar Nag area of Kulgam district, the BJP and a Kashmiri Pandit outfit alleged that authorities were carrying forward “separatist agenda”, even as the state government distanced itself from the issue.
“We had not given any permission to any yatra in Kousar Nag area so the question of suspending it under separatists’ pressure does not arise,” Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister G A Mir told PTI here.
Hundreds of residents of Aharbal and its surrounding areas staged a protest and marched towards Kousar Nag area of Kulgam district yesterday after reports that the Reasi District Administration was planning to facilitate an annual yatra to Kousar Nag where a pristine lake is situated and that a temple may be built.
There was opposition from various quarters including residents, environmentalists, civil society groups and separatists with Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani calling for a shutdown on Saturday.
The protesters clashed with police while opposing the proposed yatra, claiming that it was a threat to the ecologically fragile area.
Though local authorities remained tightlipped, the All Parties Migrant Co-ordination Committee (APMCC) claimed that authorities have now revoked the permission granted for the yatra.
The BJP today targeted the J-K government, alleging that the issue was being given a communal tinge.
Warning that a situation like the Amarnath Yatra land row of 2008 could recur in the region, party’s state spokesperson Nirmal Kamal said, “It only speaks about separatists’ agenda being carried forward by the state administration”.
The lake and the surrounding glaciers are feeding points for several fresh water bodies in the area.
The Government Friday stated that no permission for any Yatra at Kousar Nag has been issued. Talking to KNS, State Home Secretary Suresh Kumar said it is a mere rumor that any Yatra would take place at Kousar Nag and that the state government has issued permission for the same. “Actually it is no traditional Yatra but only a ‘Puja’ that used to take place near Kousar Nag years ago,” he said.
Kumar remarked that for the past few years, some people of a particular community offer prayers at the place and “no Yatra as such has ever been scheduled or taken place in the area.”
Asked about reports that a full-fledged Yatra has been arranged at Kousar Nag, Kumar remarked that the state government has no such proposal and “only usual prayers are being held by some people every year near the stream.”
“The separatists by issuing strike calls against the so-called Yatra may have their own agenda but as far as the government is concerned, there is no proposal for any yatra,” he said.
Talking to KNS, Sajad Ahmad Kichloo, Minister of State for Home said: “I don’t know (why) people are making it a controversial issue when Kousar Nag is not a place for traditional Yatra like Amarnath pilgrimage.”
He claimed that a few hundred people from Reasi visit Kousar Nag annually to offer prayers. “Some 150 to 200 people visit this place annually for the past four to five years and the government has nothing to do with its management. These special prayers are being organized by the local management of this place,” Kichloo added.
Deputy Commissioner Kulgam Nisar Ahmed Wani told CNS that the district administration never gave its consent for the Kousar Nag yatra.
“A group of Pandits approached me and sought permission to conduct the yatra to Kousar Nag. I did not give it,” Wani told CNS, adding, “The proposed yatra will never be allowed from South Kashmir route. No yatra would be allowed to Kousar Nag from the Pir Panjal foothills in South Kashmir. Yatra will operate only through its traditional route in Reasi district.”