Shri Amarnath Yatra cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19

Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory government on Tuesday announced cancellation of the annual Shri Amarnath ji Yatra and said that there will be a live telecast/ virtual Darshan of the morning and evening Aarti.The decision was taken during a meeting presided over by Lieutenant Governor, Girish Chandra Murmu, who is also Chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB).

The security forces had carried out all exercises for an incident free pilgrimage of the Shri Amarnath Yatra. But the Yatra had to be canceled in wake of deadly outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based upon the circumstances, the Board decided with a heavy heart that it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year’s Shri Amarnath ji Yatra and expressed its regret to announce the cancellation of Yatra 2020,” a statement issued by Raj Bawan said. “The Board is aware of and respects the sentiments of millions of devotees and to keep the religious sentiments alive, the Board shall continue the Live Telecast/ Virtual Darshan of the morning and evening Aarti.”

“Further, the traditional rituals shall be carried out as per past practice. Also, the Chhadi Mubarak shall be facilitated by the government,” added the statement from Raj Bhawan.

The members of Shri Amarnath ji Shrine Board (SASB), participated virtually through a video conference to discuss the conduct of the Yatra 2020. The meeting was attended by B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Bipul Pathak, CEO SASB;  Anup Kumar Soni, Additional CEO SASB and other senior officers of the Shrine Board. “Threadbare discussion was held on the current circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic and its likely impact on the Yatra,” the statement said adding that the Board discussed the Supreme Court order dated July 13, in which the decision to conduct the Yatra was left to the administration/ government after assessing the ground realities prevailing in Jammu & Kashmir.

Holy Cave of Shri Amarnath ji Shiv Lingam

The Board was informed that the arrangements were on track since February 2020, but due to nationwide lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic, State Executive Committee, J&K has still continued to keep religious places and places of worship closed for the public. These prohibitions continue till July 31.

“The Board further discussed that pandemic has put the health administration system to its limit,” it said adding that the spike has been particularly very sharp in July. 

“Health workers and security forces are also getting infected and the focus of entire medical, civil and police administration at the moment is on containing the local transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said. “The health concerns are so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the Yatra, will be immense. This would also unnecessarily put the Yatris at risk of catching the COVID-19.”

On the other hand, security forces were all ready for Yatra. All the Yatra routes, Pahalgam and Balthal come under Awantipora base counter insurgency grid Victor Force.

“We had complete exercise in collaboration with police and paramilitary forces,” a senior Army officer of Victor Force told News Intervention. “Hills around Amarnath Yatra route have already been sanitized under Operation Shiva started by the Rashtriya Rifles,” he said. “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) were also being used for surveillance of the Yatra route and cave shrine.”

Indian Army said that during the operation, soldiers carry out combing of forests located along the yatra track.

Shabir Ahmad
Shabir Ahmad
Writer is a senior Journalist based in Kashmir Valley

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