Pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine rises after normalcy in Jammu region

September 10th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Katra ( Jammu and Kashmir ), Sept 10 (ANI): Officials in Jammu have said that the number of pilgrims arriving for the Vaishno Devi cave shrine is increasing after normalcy was restored in region following an agreement between the State Government and the Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti.

After a sharp dip in the number of pilgrims in the last two months owing to the frequent shutdowns and curfew due to unrest over the shrine forestland row, the region is bouncing back to normalcy.

Officials said that the first week of September has seen a rise in the number of pilgrims per day with over 17,000 people undertaking the pilgrimage to pay obeisance to the Goddess.

“In the last two months, the number of pilgrims had reduced drastically, it was almost nil. The strike had badly hurt the business of the region, the shops used to be closed so the pilgrims stayed away. But now, the agitation is over, people are coming back again and in the last 2-3 days, there were over 17,000-18, 000 pilgrims in every 24 hours and the number is increasing day by day,” said Jugul Sharma, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Katra.

Katra annually receives about five million pilgrim tourists who come to the town, the base camp, for onward 14-kilometer long trek to the holy ”Vaishno Devi” shrine.

Pilgrims said that they are not facing any problem and are happy that normalcy has been restored in the region.

“Now things are normal, the pilgrimage is back on track and slowly, the rush is also increasing. There is no problem here at all, no strike, nothing. People are coming here and offering their prayers peacefully. Even the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the Government are coordinating to ensure all facilities are in place,” said Sandeep Singh, a pilgrim.

The pilgrimage is a huge revenue source for the state, which had witnessed slump in its tourism business because of shrine row stir.

Jammu was reeling under violent protests and demonstrations and shutdown for nearly two months over the issue of transfer of a forestland to the Shri Amarnath Shrinr Board.

In a landmark decision, the State Government has reached an agreement with the Samiti to let the shrine board make temporary use of 40-hectares of land during the yatra period.

The row over the issue began with the allocation of land for setting up temporary facilities for Hindu pilgrims visiting Amarnath shrine in Kashmir but was withdrawn later by the state government that snowballed into large-scale protests in Jammu region. (ANI)

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