Srinagar, July 11: The annual Amarnath yatra is a Hindu pilgrimage taken by hundreds every year under the shadow of terror in Jammu and Kashmir. However, that has not deterred pilgrims from making the arduous journey that culminates in the holy shrine of Amarnath cave, located in Pahalgam, Anantnag district, J&K.
However, this year, the worst fear has come true as seven devotees were killed and around 15 were injured in a terror attack in Anantnag district on Monday night.
As soon as the incident came to light, right from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to separatist leaders in the Valley condemned the ghastly episode that targetted innocent people travelling in a bus.
All these years, Amarnath yatra has defined the Kashmiri ethos, where locals take upon themselves to make the pilgrimage a successful experience for the visitors from various parts of the country.
Stories of local Muslim men ferrying pilgrims on their shoulders to cross the mountainous terrain is nothing new. The pilgrimage itself has stood the test of time as a symbol of the Hindu-Muslim unity.
Moreover, the entire yatra has an economic significance to it as it helps locals to earn income by providing various services to the visitors. Right from selling food items to turning porters for the pilgrims, locals played a crucial role in the journey of the devotees.
Many, including the members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) indicated that the attack was carried out to create communal divide.
"This is to create communal tensions in the state of J&K. It is the darkest era we have seen in our life," Waheed Ur Rehman Para, youth president of PDP, said. The PDP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is running a coalition government in the state.
Separatist leaders in the state condemned the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims, saying the incident "goes against Kashmiri ethos". In a joint statement, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik expressed grief over the killing of seven Amarnath yatris (pilgrims).
The incident has taken place at a time when the entire state is in the grip of turmoil. Since last year, violence has become a regular feature in the state. If on one hand, the civilians are protesting against the security forces on the streets, on the other, the Pakistani-sponsored terrorists are frequnetly targeting the army base camps.
The government, on its part, has decided to act tough on anyone engaged in "anti-national" activities.
Former J&K chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that the attack cannot be condemned strongly enough. Taking to Twitter, Abdullah said, "Very sad news. The attack cannot be condemned strongly enough. My sympathies to the families & prayers for the injured."
In another post said, "Every right thinking Kashmiri must today condemn the killing of the Amarnath yatris and say, unequivocally--this is #NotInMyName."
Meanwhile, the Centre said that it was not only an attack on a particular religion but on the composite culture of the state as a whole, a Times Now report said.
"This's not the only attack on a particular faith, but the attack on the composite culture that Kashmir stood by", Jitendra Singh MoS PMO was quoted as saying by Times Now.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, speaking to NDTV, said all these years, terrorists have not targeted the pilgrimage. "It was even unexpected on the part of militants to attack innocent devotees."
However, at the same breath he condemned the state government for failing to provide adequate security to the pilgrims which resulted in the gory incident.