Amarnath pilgrims stranded in Srinagar
STATE TIMES NEWS
SRINAGAR: Hundreds of Amarnath pilgrims were stranded here as Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained out of bounds for the third day in the wake of violence in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Many of the pilgrims, who performed the yatra through Baltal route in Sonamarg area of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, were stranded near the Tourist Reception Centre in the city here. The pilgrims left the Baltal base camp at around 1 AM and reached Srinagar in the wee hours.
“We performed the yatra on July 8. Around midnight tonight, 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. He, however, said when they reached Srinagar, there were no buses.
“We reached here at around 3 AM and since then we are waiting. There are no buses. How do we move to Jammu?,” he said. Another pilgrim, Bansi Lal, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, said no information has been provided to them. “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,” he said. The pilgrims also complained of inadequate arrangements and accused cab drivers of charging exorbitant rates. However, Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganai said the administration had made proper arrangements for about 24,500 pilgrims to leave Baltal for Jammu.
“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.
He said pilgrims stranded in Srinagar must have been “tricked” by cab drivers at Baltal. “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. The violence has left 23 dead and more than 250 persons injured.
Hundreds of tourists passed off the night outside the airport here after they left their hotels in the late hours last night to evade street protests, officials said. The tourists slept outside the main gate of the airport waiting for its opening in the morning to fly out of the Valley, they said. “They had confirmed bookings for today, so they left the hotels in the late hours when there was no trouble on the roads. But since the airport was closed, they had to sleep outside,” an official said. He said the tourists left the Valley by the early morning flights. Meanwhile, a police spokesperson said all the stranded Yatris at the base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam have left for Jammu. “About 25,000 Yatris, boarding 1,612 vehicles from Baltal and 129 vehicles from Pahalgam crossed the Jawahar Tunnel this morning,” the spokesperson said. He said Yatris were released from Baltal and Pahalgam towards Holy Cave this morning also.
“Till 12 PM, 2,462 Yatris left these camps for glimpse of the ice lingam today. The air services are also going on normally and 449 pilgrims left for glimpse by air. Total 2,799 pilgrims had glimpse at the Holy Cave today, he said.
The spokesperson said till date, 1,28,946 people have performed the pilgrimage.