Baltal: Contrary to what politicians may feel, Kashmiris say the ongoing Amarnath Yatra is setting an example of communal harmony between local Muslims and Hindu pilgrims, adding that it should continue in Jammu and Kashmir.
Over a thousand local Kashmiris are engaged in the 46-day long pilgrimage, providing a range of services to the pilgrims.
Locals say they long for the yatra to commence as it generates opportunities and gives them a chance to serve people, something they link with 'shabab' (blessing).
Talking to ANI, a local who owns ponies, said: "We patiently wait for the yatra. It provides us with a chance to get Shabab (blessing) by serving people. We earn enough money to meet expenses for the year."
Batting for the continuation of the yatra, another local said the pilgrimage is the backbone of their livelihood. "We serve them, they serve us," he said.
"The yatra must continue. We earn our livelihood through this yatra. We run our household and send children to school with the money we earn here," continued the local.
"We are poor people. We do not have many opportunities for employment and we are dependent on these pilgrims for our livelihood. We wait for them to come here," another man said.
According to a resident, who carries pilgrims on his horses to the holy cave, around 15,000 ponies and 1,500 palanquins are plying on the yatra route which generates employment for the locals. "Around 100 people carry pilgrims on their back," he told ANI.
He added that locals do not face any problems with the yatra, a view not shared by mainstream politicians of the valley including National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and PDP president Mahbooba Mufti.
"Yatra is running very peacefully and we are doing our best to serve our guests. There is nothing to worry about here," continued the pony owner.
Recently, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had objected to the arrangements made for the yatra, claiming that it was creating problems for the locals.
Abdullah had raised questions over restrictions on the use of Jammu-Kashmir Highway for civilians keeping in view safety of pilgrims.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel have also been helping the pilgrims on the journey. Last week, netizens praised the force after two photos surfaced on social media showing personnel administering oxygen to a pilgrim.
The 46-day-long yatra began on July 1, the day of Masik Shivratri, and will conclude on August 15, the day of Shravan Purnima.
Situated at an altitude of 3,888 m, the Amarnath cave is considered as one of the holiest shrines for Hindus. The Yatra takes place from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district.