At a time when security of Amarnath pilgrims has become a matter of debate following a recent attack in Anantnag, the decades-old pilgrimage continues to showcase communal harmony and brotherhood on ground.
In this Amarnath yatra base camp in Ganderbal district, the assistance rendered to Hindu pilgrims by local Muslims paints a picture of how communal harmony and peace mark the pilgrimage time in the Valley
Scores of Kashmiri Muslims form a huge chunk of service providers here who facilitate the annual pilgrimage every year. Thousands of Kashmiris have this year again joined the yatra, offering their services as workers, pony-wallas and palanquin-bearers, thus helping aged or ailing pilgrims in climbing the difficult mountainous trek of Baltal up to the Amarnath cave.
Hundreds of locals have also put up stalls at this base camp, as well as another base camp at Pahalgam in Anantnag district, offering different kinds of goods to the pilgrims.
Many locals risk their lives and brave difficult treks, torrential rains, hot or humid weather conditions all along the yatra route to ensure a safe and comfortable journey of the pilgrims.
“Amarnath yatra is beyond business for us. Apart from earning our livelihood, it gives us an opportunity to serve thousands of visitors every year who come to Kashmir,” Shabir Ahmed, a local service provider, said.
“We have been coming here for years now to provide services to Amarnath pilgrims who reach the base camp and then leave for holy cave for ‘darshan’. Cutting across religious lines, we ensure that the guests don’t face any inconvenience and that they stay safe and comfortable during the pilgrimage.”
The Amarnath pilgrims here are all praise for the hospitality and helping nature of Kashmiri people.
“An impression is given by some vested elements that the situation is very tense in Kashmir and it is not wise to perform the yatra. But coming over here, one comes to know how hospitable Kashmiris are. People here provide us every kind of help during the pilgrimage,” Kamlesh Yadav, a pilgrim said.
The pilgrims say the yatra would be incomplete without involvement of locals.
Mukesh Kumar, a pilgrim from New Delhi, said it’s all “due to cooperation and support of Muslim community that our religious journey has been successful.”
“Islam teaches us peace, harmony and tolerance towards other religions and it is this principle which has been guiding us all along,” said Bashir Ahmed, a service provider.
He said Amarnath yatra creates a bond of friendship, love, religious tolerance and compassion between Muslims and Hindus.
The civil and police administrations also work tirelessly to ensure successful and peaceful Amarnath pilgrimage.