Woman pilgrim killed, Amarnath Yatra suspended again as rains lash Kashmir Valley

Srinagar: A 53-year-woman pilgrim identified as Urmila Ben was killed and two members of a Jammu and Kashmir police rescue team were critically injured when hit by shooting stones enroute to the 13,000 feet (3,882 m) high Amarnath cave-shrine early Sunday.

The government officials here said that the woman was hit by a shooting stone between the Sangam Top and Lower Cave area and when two members of the J&K police’s mountain rescue team identified as Muhammad Saleem and Muhammad Yaseen rushed to rescue her, they too were caught amid falling stones, the activity triggered by a heavy downpour in the hills.

While the woman succumbed to her injuries before she could be evacuated to the hospital, the critically injured policemen were rescued out of the accident-prone area by the Army personnel and then airlifted to a medical facility in a private helicopter, the officials said.

J&K’s Director General of police, Dilbag Singh, while condoling the “unfortunate” death of the woman yatri and expressing sympathy with the bereaved family said in a statement, “I appreciate the commitment of two policemen and want to say a big thank you to everyone involved in the quick evacuation and wish these brave jawans early recovery.”

As per the official statistics, five pilgrims have died on their way to Amarnath or while returning after paying obeisance at the revered place of worship in the lower Kashmir Himalayas during the past three days, raising the toll of the devotees who died during this year’s yatra to 24. Most of these deaths have, however, taken place due to high altitude sicknesses resulting in lack of oxygen followed by cardiac arrests, the officials said.

On Sunday, eight CRPF jawans were injured when the vehicle they were travelling in skidded off the road at Nilgrath, a couple of kilometres down the basecamp of Baltal, and fell in a ditch. The CRPF men were on their way to Amarnath to have darshan of the Shiv ling, the officials said.

One of the seriously injured CRPF jawan identified as Patil Bhattu has been admitted to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). The doctors said that the other injured jawans are “stable”. The CRPF sources said that these jawans deployed in the Valley for law-and-order duties had taken casual leave to pay obeisance at Amarnath.

Meanwhile, the Amarnath yatra was, a second time in the past week, suspended from both traditional Pahalgam and shorter Baltal routes following inclement weather on Sunday. As the entire yatra area with several other parts of J&K has been receiving moderate to heavy rains since Saturday night, the treks to the cave-shrine have turned slippery at places, forcing the authorities to suspend the yatra “as a precautionary measure”, the officials said. They added that the yatra will remain suspended until the weather improves.

A spokesman of the Meteorological Department here said that while most parts of the Valley have been lashed by rains, the Pahalgam area received highest precipitation during the last 24 hours. “Pahalgam had received 34.9mm rainfall in the last 24 hours till 8.30 am on Sunday,” the spokesman said.

Over 2.8 lakh devotees have paid obeisance and had darshan of the naturally formed ice stalagmite considered as the Shiv Linga or a physical manifestation of Shiva and two smaller stalagmites thought to represent Parvati and Ganesha at the Amarnath since July 1 when the annual pilgrimage to the revered cave-shrine began.

A statement issued by the J&KL government here on Saturday evening said that 21, 401 yatries had darshan at Amarnath during the day, raising the number of those who visited the cave-shrine in the past fortnight to 208,415. The statement said, “15,510 males, 5,034 females, 617 Children, 238 Sadhus and 2 Sadhvis performed darshan on Saturday”.

It added that among the pilgrims was a Ukrainian woman who shared her views about pilgrimage and appreciated smooth and organized arrangements besides praising passionate support from people. Earlier two American nationals from California had undertaken the yatra, claiming to be inspired by Swami Vivekananda. They had said that they had been dreaming for years to come to Amarnath.

The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath commenced officially on July 1 simultaneously from both Pahalgam route in southern Anantnag district and Baltal route in the north in the Valley’s Ganderbal district. It will conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 31. The authorities expect more than half a million devotees to turn up at this one of the most revered Hindus places of worship dedicated to Lord Shiva, during the longest-ever 62-day pilgrimage and have made extraordinary security and logistics arrangements to ensure a ‘hassle-free yatra.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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