Curtail Amarnath pilgrimage to 15 days: Geelani


Srinagar : Hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani Friday said the separatists were not against the annual Amarnath ‘yatra’ (pilgrimage) in principle, but wanted its duration to be curtailed to 15 days.

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Addressing a Friday gathering in Saraibala area of summer capital Srinagar, Geelani said: “We are not against the annual Hindu yatra to the Amarnath cave, but want its duration to be curtailed to the original 15 days.”

“Extending the yatra to two months has threatened our ecology and environment. If the yatra to Gangotri can be completed in 15 days, why can’t the yatra to Amarnath be completed in the same period?” he asked.

The two-month Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath in the Himalayas begins July 5.

“If the government does not take steps to restore the yatra to its original 15 days, we will deliberate on the future course of action in this regard in the ‘Majlis-e-Shoura’ (Council of Elders),” Geelani said.

He also denied the charge that he had withdrawn the land row agitation against the allotment of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board in 2008.

“The decision to withdraw the agitation in 2008 was taken by the co-ordination committee and it was not my decision,” he said.

The separatist leader also asked the government to release all youth arrested by the police on charges of stone pelting by Monday.

“If these youth are not released by coming Monday, we will launch an agitation for their release and be forced to come out on the roads,” he said.

He criticized the government for alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and asked the parents of the arrested youth not to approach anybody with bribes to secure the release of their wards.

“This is part of the ongoing freedom struggle and it is our duty to fight for the release of the arrested youth,” he said.