De-Militarise Amarnath Yatra, Address Environmental Concerns in Regions of Conflict

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: May 5, 2017

This investigation, conducted by citizens of Kashmir and Bangalore analyses how the Amarnath Yatra in particular –as also other such ‘pilgrimages’ like the Kauser Nag and the Buddha Amarnath Yatra are being actively promoted by wings of the Indian state, especially it’s intelligence and military wings, revealing a dangerous mix between ‘state’, religion’ and ‘conflict’.

Amarnath yatra

Amarnath Yatra – A Militarised Pilgrimage (which can be read here) is a must read for Indians committed to the Indian state maintaining a distance from matters of faith and worship
 
Extracts
(Portions have been juzxterposed in a different chronology from the original):
 
The Yatra
Ever year, for about 40 days Every year for about 40 days between July – August, lakhs of people travel to the Amarnath cave in South Kashmir to pay obeisance to an ice stalagmite, which is believed to be an embodiment of the Hindu deity Shiva. According to mythology, it is here that Shiva narrated the story of eternity to his consort Parvati, from where the cave gets its name Amarnath, meaning God of Eternity.
 
The ice stalagmite is located in a cave at an elevation of 13,500 feet. At the rear end water drips through crevices which starts freezing as it touches the floor of the cave, thus forming the stalagmite. While several kinds and shapes of ice stalagmites are found the world over, in the case of the one in the Amarnath cave, several such spirals of stalagmites unite to form a solid dome-shaped form of ice. Next to this dome are two smaller ice formations believed to represent Parvati and Ganesh. It is believed that the stalagmites change with the waxing and waning of the moon and it is only in the month of Shravan in the Hindu calendar that the formation is complete. It is also believed that the full moon day in the month of Shravan called the Shravan Poornima is particularly auspicious to pray in the cave.

The Amarnath Cave is situated in the region north of Pahalgam and south of the Zojila Pass in Kashmir. It can be accessed through 2 routes – one from Pahalgam, district Anantnag (Nunwan), to the Cave and the other from Baltal, district Ganderbal. The Pahalgam route is also the traditional one, and since it is 33 kms long it takes yatris 5 days from Nunwan to the Cave and back. Prominent milestones on this route are Chandanwari, Pisu Top, Sheesh Nag, Mahagunus Top, Panchtarni, Sangam. The second route from Baltal is a newer and shorter route of 18 kms which can be completed in a day. Both routes meet at Sangam from where there is a single path to the Cave.
 
While the period between 1963–1985 shows that the number of people visiting the Cave remained steady, the graph post 1985 can best be described as erratic. According to figures in the Jammu & Kashmir State Action Plan for Climate Change – Revised Final Draft (assumed to be dated 2012), about 4000 people participated in the pilgrimage in 1963. From 1985 we see a 2-fold jump in the number of yatris visiting the Cave, with a dip again almost soon after due to the active and visible conflict situation in the valley, after which another rise is seen in 1995. Below is a graph depicting the number of yatris visiting the Cave from 1963 – 2016.

GRAPH
 
 
Several people interviewed as part of the study share that before the mid-80s; approximately half of the yatris were sadhus, significant numbers from the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in India and a few Kashmiri Pandits. On a rare occasion, a few tourists from other states of India would travel on the Yatra after having heard about it upon reaching Kashmir.

The following years see spurts in numbers visiting Amarnath: 1985, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2011. While the significant dips were in: 1990, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2009 and 2013. An assessment of events around the spurts and dips shows that there are two primary causes: the socio-political events in Kashmir and India, and environmental issues.

The report documents, how with the rise of majoritarian politics in India, the numbers of ‘Yatris’ to Amarnath increased:
 
1996 – increase in numbers: In 1995, the Harkatul Mujaheedin announced a ban on the involvement of Kashmiris in the Yatra. In 1996, as a political reaction to the ban, the Bajrang Dal gave a ‘Chalo Amarnath’ call all over India and were able to mobilise more than 50,000 people, with 21,000 being youth members of the Bajrang Dal. This caused a sudden spurt in the number of yatris from 60,000 the previous year to 1,20,000 in 1997.

C. 2001 – a decrease in numbers: The attack on the Nunwan camp in 2000 and the Sheesh Nag camp in 2001 resulted in a fall in numbers of yatris.

D. 2004 – an increase in numbers: According to the Mahant of the Dashnami Akhara, the spiritual custodian of the mace and the Yatra, the year 2004 was unique in terms of the Hindu calendar, which had two months of Shravan instead of one, with different communities in India observing different months. Therefore the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) decided to extend the Yatra from 30 days to 45 days causing an increase in the number of yatris.

Newspaper reports suggest that as on several occasions in the past, in 2004 as well, the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sanghash Samiti (SAYSS)17 decided to defy the SASB decision to conduct the Yatra for 45 days and informally began the Yatra 15 days prior to its official opening. This could also have lead to increasing numbers in 2004.

E. 2008 – an increase in numbers: In 2008, the Forest Department transferred 100 acres of land to the SASB for a sum of Rs. 1.25 crores, in violation of the Jammu and Kashmir Forests Act, 1987, and led to vehement protests by people of the Kashmir valley. The response of the socio-religious organisations of Jammu and the violent manner in which the Indian State chose to address the protests, ensured that it soon coalesced into the ongoing struggle for self-determination and freedom. Based on writings in blogs and websites of the socio-religious organisations, we believe that there was an effort to ensure that large numbers of people participated in the Yatra in 2008 as a show of their Hindu might.

F. 2009 – fall in numbers: Due to the Amarnath land row in the previous year, curfews were imposed in regions linked to the Yatra in both Jammu and Kashmir during the June – August period. In the months after the Yatra, the issue continued to be reported in the news papers. This might have influenced people from choosing not to undertake the Yatra in 2009.

G. Fall in numbers in 2016: The extrajudicial killing of Burhan Wani on July 8th triggered a spate of violence by the armed forces against protests by the people. The Yatra had already begun on July 2nd and data shows that till July 8th, there is a similar visitation pattern as the previous year.

2. Environmental Issues
1. The fall in numbers in 1997: The increased numbers of Yatris in 1996 also coincided with an environmental anomaly in the month of August 1996. Among the 60,000 odd people mobilised to undertake the Yatra, many were religious fundamentalists who participated with the belief that they were establishing Hindu hegemony over the region, while others were from the villages who had no idea as to the nature of the Yatra, the high altitudes that need to be traversed and extreme weather conditions.

On August 21, 1996 in the late afternoon hours, there was heavy downpour of rain and snowfall all along the Yatra route, right from Khanabal to the Cave. The upper reaches were especially the worst affected with resultant storms and avalanches. This caused about 60,000 yatris being stranded at different points along the route between Islamabad and the Cave. Many hundreds of people were severely affected by exposure to the cold, and other health problems that surfaced from being in high altitudes without adequate protection. There were also some accidents caused by the stampede and jostling since there was wide spread panic among the yatris. 243 people were reported dead out of which 174 people were identified. However, this could not be an accurate figure, as in 1996 registration20 of yatris was not streamlined and no credible records of movement of the yatris were maintained. The actual number of casualties could therefore well be higher than what has been reported. Following this, the Department of Kashmir Affairs, Government of India ordered an enquiry into the happenings of the period August 21–26, 1996 and to suggest measures to be undertaken in the future Yatras. Nitish K. Sengupta was appointed as the enquiry officer under whose aegis a detailed and hitherto path-breaking report with respect to the Yatra was submitted.21

2   The fall in numbers in 2007: A few days after the Yatra began, on July 1st, the SASB announced that the ice stalagmite had completely melted. Like in most years, the Yatra in the first few days was affected due to inclement weather and had just resumed when this news was reported in the papers, which immediately led to a fall in yatri numbers.
 
20. One of the recommendations of the Nitish Sengupta report was that yatris be registered and go through a medical examinationto ensure fitness for participating the yatra.

21 The contents of the report are discussed in detail in Chapter 4 and Chapter 6.

3. The fall in numbers in 2013: Two causes may be attributed to this. 1. 2012 witnessed the massive destruction of life and property in the Uttarakhand floods which affected thousands of people in the regions of Kedarnath and Badrinath. This would surely have dissuaded several people from embarking on a similarly situated Yatra like that of Amarnath. 2. In 2012, the SASB introduced the pre-registration rule, which was not yet streamlined or known to many aspiring to travel. Several langar organisations reported this to be reason for the low turnout at the Yatra.

While the above factors offer insights into events which defined the Yatra for specific years, criticality lies in answering the question, what caused the seismic nature of the graph post- 1980? And whether the Yatra remains a truly religious event, or if there are other motivators influencing it as well?

 The Kashmir Valley and the Yatra
The Yatra and its impacts on the Kashmir valley must necessarily be seen in the context of the conflict in the region. Every year the SASB and the Government of India endeavour to ensure a better Yatra than the previous year – better communication on the Yatra route, better crowd management, more security for the yatris. Despite the Yatra being for about 45-55 days, there is a whole department (albeit not a large one), to facilitate and coordinate it. The people of the Valley meanwhile face various forms of restrictions and stipulations, and not just during the Yatra period. Between the Kashmiris and the yatris there is seriously differential treatment of the same needs of communication, religious expression and security.

Some of the direct ways that the Yatra affects the people of Kashmir has been discussed in the preceding chapters. Additionally, people of the Valley have to deal with increased militarisation, serious traffic jams, road congestions and road diversions during the Yatra period, especially for the 3 weeks when it is at its peak, since the SASB is committed to facilitating the Yatra, even at the cost of interests of the people living in these regions.

This differential treatment is also not limited to the Yatra period. The road between Ganderbal and Baltal, especially after Sonamarg, is known to receive snowfall during the start of winter itself, and often remains snow bound even until March. People of Sonamarg report that the SASB, who starts preparation for the Yatra from February/March itself, clear the road leading to Baltal, but leave a nearby diversion road leading to a few villages snow bound. The State Roads & Buildings Department is engaged to do this work, and despite its mandate of maintenance and upkeep of all roads in the state, does not clear the road leading to the village, since it has been engaged by the SASB for the purpose of preparation for the Yatra. State resources are diverted for the purpose of the Yatra without a thought being spared for people living in the region, and in whose interests the state departments are primarily to work with.

Mobile communication in Kashmir cannot be taken for granted, and the State frequently clamps down on mobile and internet connectivity as a way to stifle any form of resistance. Even the remote possibility of a conflict brewing leads the State to block SMS and internet services thus affecting even normal communication. However, a perusal of minutes of preparatory meetings and post Yatra review meetings of the SASB sees a lot of emphasis on the need to ensure that communication channels along the Yatra route work smoothly. BSNL towers are erected all along the route and the cellphone networks are strong almost throughout the Yatra route. Given the remote location this is surely a luxury. Since there are restrictions on cellphone service providers in J&K, SASB has started facilitating the distribution of pre-paid SIM cards as a part of the registration process itself. In J&K, either post-paid SIM cards issued in India, or pre-paid SIM cards issued in J&K work. Knowing that several yatris might not be aware of these restrictions, one part of the registration document includes a request as well as approval for a pre-paid SIM card issued in J&K. All a yatri needs to do when they arrive in Jammu / Kashmir, is to take the slip to a store which issues SIM cards, and they receive a SIM card by paying the fee, and without any of the otherwise mandatory background checks and other verifications.

This leads us to the issue of the differential way the SASB and State perceive and treat Kashmiris and the yatris. During the discussion on non-state actors, we see how the Kashmiri service providers are mandated to submit a certificate from the local police station verifying that they have no police records and are therefore cleared to be involved in the Yatra. Further, even study teams from educational institutions of Kashmir have been denied entry during the Yatra. In the context of State actors we see the suspicion with which the Indian armed forces stationed along the Yatra route view the Kashmiri service providers. A recent report in the Bangalore Mirror indicates the crux of the way Kashmiris are viewed in the context of the Yatra: “In the last 14 years, militants avoided attacking Amarnath Yatra although there have been instances when vehicles carrying pilgrims were pelted with stones”.

Discriminatory practices were seen even as far back as 1991, when a fact finding team visiting the Valley to document the violations of democratic rights and civil liberties of its people, described their journey from Jammu to Srinagar which coincided with the Yatra. The following excerpts from the report describes the gravity of the situation:

“When our team landed in Jammu on 31 July the city was full of the army, the paramilitary and the ugly Punjab Commandos who are dressed to look like death. The reason was that the Amarnath pilgrims were reaching the city, and they were to be protected from attacks by the Pakistan based fundamentalist militant organisation Harqat-ul-Ansar that had announced a ban on the Yatra. Nobody in his right senses would support the ban on the civic freedom of the Amarnath devotees, and all responsible Kashmiri organisations had dissociated themselves from the ban. But what was remarkable was the way the State’s duty of protecting the Yatris was turned into an assertion of the might and prestige of the Indian army, aimed at the people of the Kashmir valley, unfairly setup as a surrogate of the invisible Harqat-ul-Ansar….
...When we went to the Bus stand near the Tourist Reception Centre at Jammu in quest of a bus to Srinagar, we found about two dozen valley-bound passengers huddled in a group, wondering when they would find a bus to take them to what was after all the capital of the state. All the while bus after bus was moving into the departure line full of Pahalgam-bound pilgrims shouting slogans hailing Bholenath. Gun-toting army men along with transport officials were diligently seeing to it that all the Yatris got into buses and the buses formed a convoy adequately covered by protective army escort. The Srinagar bound passengers were happy that our group of thirteen wanted to go to Srinagar too. For they were 26, and had been told that if there were 40 passengers a bus to Srinagar might be arranged. And so a request was made and a bus was allotted for us. But as the tickets were being issued to us at the booking counter the clerk was twice told to stop by a transport official for this bus too might have to go to Pahalgam. It required some pleading and persuasion to at least let this one bus go to Srinagar.”

Given the decades of discriminatory practices of the State and SASB, it is obvious that there would be animosity towards it locally. But the State clearly sees any form of resistance to discrimination – armed conflict or pelting of stones – as being militant. It also does this without exploring the role of the militarized form of pilgrimage in exacerbating the situation after the year 2000. Indeed the State often does add fuel to the fire. One glaring example, shared by several in the Valley, is the issue of the Muhharam procession that has been banned in Srinagar since 1990. One of the reasons quoted by the State for this is the potential for conflict between the Shias and the Sunnis. This is just an excuse that the State uses, since there is no overt issue between the Shias and Sunnis of the city that would necessitate the banning of the procession. This continues to be a bone of contention for the people of Kashmir, who see the State going all out to promote the Yatra while stifling religious sentiments of the people of the Valley.

While all efforts to provide the best health facilities to the yatris is made, the medical infrastructure for the people of Pahalgam remains abysmal. For e.g. Pahalgam, a tehsil headquarter has only a Primary Health Centre. A few doctors are stationed here though the majority of the population of the Pahalgam tehsil are settled around the town itself. On the other hand, during the Yatra 15-20 doctors are stationed at the PHC. Though there are basic X-ray facilities, the technician who operates this is charge of 4 other such PHCs and is therefore not available in the town on all working days. A subdistrict hospital has been sanctioned but even after 4 years even the land has not been identified. The people of Pahalgam tehsil have travel about 42 kms. to Islamabad in case of any major illness.

In the name of the Yatra, there is an increase in the presence of the armed forces on the Yatra route and constant checking and frisking of vehicles and people. Baggage and body scanning machines are placed in strategic places and it is mandatory that anyone travelling on that route to go through the scanning process. For example, there is one such arrangement just outside Nunwan. Therefore any Kashmiri who needs to travel beyond Nunwan including Pahalgam, Aru Valley, Betab Valley and others, needs to go through the checking wherein vehicles are also checked thoroughly. In a region where movement is as regulated as it is in the Valley, the presence of the Yatra does not bode well for the people.

In Conclusion
The State clearly privileges the Yatra and the yatris, while keeping aside the rights of the people of Kashmir. Justice Swatanter Kumar in his judgement of 2012 pitches the right of the faithful against the rights of the Kashmris. While on the one hand he places the argument in the framework of sustainable development, on the other he argues the cause of comfort for the yatris. What he suggests as infrastructure necessary for the yatris goes against the norms of sustainable development. This will not only affect Kashmiris as pointed in Chapter 6, but will also have an implication for the yatris since the formation of the ice stalagmite will be affected, as it has been on more than one occasion. Even in 2016, the size of the ice stalagmite was only 10 ft. compared to 18 ft. in 2015 and 20 ft. in 2005. Suggestions of artificially constructing the ice stalagmite or using technology to maintain it is must surely be demeaning to the faithful. Transforming a natural and divine structure through the use of modern science is a mockery and an attempt to fool people.

The State comes through clearly as a Hindu state, making Hindus 1st class citizens of the country and all others 2nd class. In Kashmir this takes on a different meaning given that it is a disputed territory, where democratic structures are merely a façade and which is truly under military rule. The use of militarisation to curb dissent and a struggle for freedom, and the use of religious sentiments of the dominant religious community in India come together in a most lethal way in the context of the Amarnath Yatra. But this is not a loss only for Kashmir but also for India whose constitutional democracy has been done away with. For the truly faithful, it must be a matter of shame that their religion is being used by the State to further its interest and is causing a threat to Indian democracy.

It is crucial that the State take note of the serious transgressions taking place in the name of the Amarnath Yatra.
 
Recommendations
Some of the immediate steps that we believe need to be taken are:
-Restrict the Yatra to its traditional period of 15 days. Very importantly, the faith of the yatris cannot be instrumentalised to further India’s political interests. We also call upon devotee groups to resist this use of their faith.

-De-militarize the Amarnath Yatra. The military has no place in a space of divinity. If the terrain renders the Yatra dangerous then disaster management institutions need to be involved and not the armed forces! There have been no attacks on the Yatra and indigenous groups have been repeatedly committed to this. The people of Kashmir have consistently supported yatris in times of crises, be it in 2008 with the setting up of langars for stranded yatris, or saving their lives in the accident near Bijbehara or when Kashmir was facing brutality from the State in 2016, like never before since its formation in 1947 no harm was brought to the yatris by the Kashmiris. This compassion by the Kashmiris must be responded to by removal of the armed forces from the Yatra route.

-Conduct an Environment Impact Assessment of the pilgrimage and make necessary changes to the numbers allowed, and to its conduct.

-If indeed tunnels are being planned then these need to be stopped immediately. Construction of the tunnels will seriously compromise the stability of the mountains potentially causing catastrophe, the victims of which could very well be the yatris.
-Carrying capacity should be scientifically established and regulatory mechanisms should accordingly be put in place.

-If the government has the responsibility of administering the Yatra, it should deliver on them rather than outsourcing it. If langars are allowed to operate between Chandanwari – Cave – Baltal region then they need to be regulated. The number of langars should be rationalised, so should the menu. Discriminatory practices like disallowing entry of Kashmiris in the langars should be actively discouraged by the State.

-The Kashmiri service providers who primarily service the unorganised aspects of the Yatra, namely, tent owners, people who carry yatris on dandis, porters and horse owners have to be recognised as equal participants of the Yatra as those of the organised sector. Just as the SASB actively engages with the organised sector, the unorganised sector also need to be engaged with and opinions taken into account while planning the Yatra.

-The might that socio-religious organisations wield over the SASB and the conduct of the Yatra is nothing short of blackmail. The threat that there will be communal discontent should their opinions not be accepted should face severe punishment as per the provisions in the Indian Constitution and law. The impunity with which these organisations function and their blatant threats cannot go unpunished! Further, given that India is constitutionally a secular country and not a Hindu state, this integrity needs to be maintained. The State cannot take cues from socio-religious organisations on its conduct while setting aside the people it claims to have concern for.

-The Government of India needs to restore the Constitution vis-à-vis the conduct of the Yatra. The democratic fabric which has been run threadbare needs to be re-established. While the SASB Act itself needs to be repealed, in the event that this is not legally possible, it definitely should be cut down to size. The SASB which functions like a state within the state needs to be re-imagined such that it plays only an implementing role with decision making reposed with the state government.

-Attempts to create more Amarnaths like Buddha Amarnath and Kauser Nag need to nipped at the bud. The Buddha Amarnath Yatra is already growing by leaps and bounds and before it becomes another site of active conflict, the State needs to put an end to the way it is conducted, if it is interested in the peace that it so often claims to desire.
 
 
A Note
Amarnath Yatra: A Militarised Pilgrimage is a documentation of all facets of the Amarnath Yatra, an annual pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir. The report studies the history of the Yatra and stages of its evolution while examining its different motivations. State institutions involved and their role

– especially the administration – armed forces nexus has been explored. Other groups of people and organisations providing services in the Yatra including unorganised labour and the formal sector are assessed to understand the emergent power dynamics including the relationship between the socio-religious institutions and the State. The Yatra being conducted in high altitudes has serious environmental impacts, which is also studied in detail. The Yatra is fraught with controversies and conflicts and some of the more critical instances have been documented in this report. The Amarnath Yatra is one among several others which are receiving State patronage. The other upcoming Yatras and their implications has also been documented. The report concludes that the Yatra is really being conducted on the might of the Indian armed forces along with socio-religious and langar organisations mobilising people to participate. We believe that each of these aspects may be further studied for nuances which will also throw light on how religious tourism / pilgrimages are being used by the State to exercise control in areas that are in conflict with the State.
 
Aftermath of July 8, 2016: A Postscript
This report was scheduled to be released on July 16th, 2016. With the violence of the Indian state against Kashmiris and the sustained protests by the people the report could not be released. As in 2008, the Amarnath Yatra was underway at this time. While the Yatra saw numbers comparable to the earlier years, post July 9th the per day numbers were almost half of the previous year.

Newspapers, especially the Hindi newspapers, abounded with stories of how the yatris were scared for their lives and that they had been the target of stone pelting and other physical violence like beating. Soon after July 8th, the Yatra was stopped for a few days and when it resumed, road movement towards Pahalgam and Baltal was conducted during the night. The armed forces claimed that this was being done to protect the yatris from stone pelting and attacks from the local people. The yatris were taken in convoys of about 100-150 vehicles flanked by the armed forces. Some yatris interviewed by
 
A search on the internet will reveal several such coverage. As an example: Retrieved from of the armed forces made them feel safe and that though they have heard that the situation in Kashmir was tense, they themselves did not face any problems.

While it is true that vehicles were attacked, in several instances, objection was not towards the yatris themselves but the anger which was directed at the Kashmiri vehicle driver / owner for defying the strike and plying his vehicle as in the case of the ABP news team which was stopped in Srinagar.

On July 13th, 2016 a bus carrying yatris had an accident when it collided with a truck when it was on its way from Baltal to Jammu. 23 people were injured and 2 (a Kashmiri driver and a yatri) succumbed to death. One of the survivors of the accident, in an interview spoke of how he escaped from the bus, which was travelling in a convoy, and asked the police, armed forces and other yatris to help the accident victims but received no help from them. 2 Kashmiris witness to this, shouted for help and a group of about 50 people, all local people; defying curfew came and helped the yatris get out of the bus by breaking windows and the door. He goes on to say that the locals ensured that ambulances were brought to take the victims to the hospital. He also says that they were treated well in the hospital and were given all facilities. He ends his narration with “If you want to learn humanity, learn it from the Kashmiris. Do not malign the community, understand its heart. It is the first time in my life that I have experienced such humanity.” In another interview he said, “The army is here for helping us, but they did not help us. People of Kashmir and Srinagar helped us and even donated blood for us.... People run community kitchens here but Kashmiris gave us their blood and saved us.”

In another instance on the Baltal – Srinagar route, near Kangan, it was reported that people were made to get down and shout pro-Pakistan slogans. What was shared by the people but not reported in the newspapers was that the yatris were intimating the group of people standing on the road by shouting slogans similar to those mentioned earlier in the report, to which the Kashmiris responded.

As in the earlier years, in 2016 as well, by June there were reports that the Yatra would be attacked. In June 2016, the Hizbul Mujahideen released a video where Burhan Wani put to rest rumours that his organisation intended to attack the Amarnath Yatra in 2016. He went on to say that their struggle was against the Sainik colonies, which was usurping the land of Kashmirs and Kashmiri Pandit colonies which resembled the Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas. The Hindu, in June 2016 reported a senior Home Ministry official’s statement that the government did not perceive any specific threat to the Yatra. The official also said that since they did not want to take chances, they have beefed up security.

 As mentioned in earlier parts of the report, it has been more than a decade since there has been an attack on the Yatra and in 2016, the Hizbul Mujahideen categorically communicated that they would not harm the Yatra, yet the armed forces and the Indian state did nothing to dispel the fear of the people. Some Kashmiris also said that the armed forces know that the Yatra would not be attacked and were using the excuse of providing security to the yatris and therefore travelling in convoys just so that they could move freely, since the armed forces were the target of the anger of the people.

Even after July 8th, there were constant reports that the different groups intended to attack the Yatra. However, there were no attacks and the Yatra was conducted for the entire 48 days without any incident. After July 8th and over the next 135 days, 109 unarmed civilians were killed, 15000 injured with 7000 sustaining severe injuries, 1178 people reported pellet injuries in the eyes of which 52 people were blinded and 300 lost partial eyesight. While such was the grim situation on the one hand and newspapers everyday were reporting these gross forms of violence by the armed forces on the people of Kashmir, there were as many reports about the peaceful conduct of the Yatra. The Governor held regular meetings to ensure that the Yatra was at no point disrupted or yatris harmed. While it is indeed the responsibility of the state to take care of its people, the differential treatment being meted out to Kashmiris and yatris clearly drove home the point that it has no concern whatsoever about the Kashmiris and privileged the Yatra.

The report has been published by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), Srinagar and EQUATIONS, Bengaluru, Karnataka. It was finally released on April 28, 2017, eight days ago but finds little or no mention in the media.