Jammu, Aug 18 (UNI) The busiest religious place of Jammu and Kashmir and the world famous Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, situated on Trikuta Hills, has observed an instant decline in pilgrims due to intensified agitation over restoration of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) in Jammu and its outskirts.
With Jammu agitation entering the consecutive 49th day, the number of pilgrims visiting the holy town Katra in Reasi district has reduced due to the tense situation, official sources said.
''The yatra has observed a steep fall due to the two-month-long protests and complete shutdown in the entire Jammu region,'' official sources told UNI asserting, ''the month of July in previous year observed a heavy rush as 7,90,075 pilgrims visited Vaishno Devi while in July this year, the figure reached 5,21,612.'' The official spokesman, however, said that during August 1-12 (in 2007) 2,75,472 had 'darshan' of natural 'pindies' (deities) whereas in 2008, the yatra in the first twelve days declined to 1,20,837 due to agitation.
Moreover, so far in eight months, 44,14,789 yatris had visited the holy cave shrine as compared to the previous year in which 42,77,300 pilgrims visited Katra till August to trek 13-kilometre-long track to the Bhawan to pay obeisance at the holy cave shrine, the spokesman added.
He said the Amarnath land row had affected the Vaishno Devi yatra most but still the pilgrims from across the country were reaching Katra base camp to visit the shrine.
''Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has arranged free 'langar' (food stalls) for the yatris while the government has pressed in special bus service from Jammu to Katra as no commercial vehicle is plying on the road due to the bandh call given by the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SAYSS) spearheading the agitation,'' the spokesman added.
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