Indo-American Kashmir Forum Condemns Politicization of Amarnath Land Transfer Print
Thursday, 14 August 2008 00:00

The Board reviewed the situation following the issuance and retraction of the State Government Order authorizing temporary transfer of land to build comfort facilities for Amarnath pilgrims. Over 400,000 Hindu pilgrims trek during two months of every summer to the holy Amarnath shrine, situated at over 12,000 ft. elevation in the Himalayan Mountain range in the predominantly Muslim region of Kashmir. As described in Kashmir’s historical text Rajatarangni, the centuries-old shrine forms an important part of Hindu religious heritage and culture. Over the past twelve years, hundreds of pilgrims have died from snowfall and other natural hazards as well as terrorist attacks along the route. The New York Times article dated June 28, 2008 [Land Transfer to Hindu Site Inflames Kashmir’s Muslims] stated “In previous years, the pilgrims made tempting targets for militant Islamist separatists.”

The Board expressed its deep shock and sorrow at the loss of life in Kashmir and Jammu regions of the state resulting from a series of poor administrative decisions executed by the State government. IAKF is distressed in the manner the Central Government in New Delhi at first ignored mob politics by separatists and so-called pro-India political parties in Kashmir valley and the resulting backlash in Jammu.

The minority Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state government, before stepping down and paving the way for the Governor’s rule, exercised poor judgment in rescinding a lawful cabinet decision on the land transfer by giving in to mob violence and threats, even though the land transfer approval had taken nearly four years of due diligence, and survived numerous legal challenges and official departmental reviews.

IAKF believes in people’s right to democracy and the rule of law. In the case of pilgrim facilities for the Amarnath shrine, it means those illegal and unilateral actions taken by authorities on July 1, 2008 must be rescinded. Legal decisions on the land transfer taken by the State Cabinet on May 20, 2008 and the subsequent Government Order issued on May 26, 2008 must be restored, both being consistent with the J&K State Assembly Act of 2000 and the J&K High Court decision of 2005 related to the holy Amarnath shrine.

It is unfortunate to note that for nearly 48 days – from June 23, 2008, when Kashmiri separatists led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met with both the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, and the supreme commander of the United Jihad Council (UJC), Syed Salahuddin, in Islamabad (Pakistan), marking the start of street demonstrations in Srinagar, until August 9, 2008,  when the All Party Indian Parliament Team visited Jammu to initiate a dialogue with Jammu protestors – the government in New Delhi was indifferent towards the people of Jammu.

IAKF recently organized a rally in downtown Boston, Massachusetts (USA) to show support for the right of all pilgrims, regardless of their faith, to be provided with safe and clean facilities en route to their place of worship, including the Amarnath Shrine in Kashmir. Dozens of Americans of Kashmiri origin were joined by others affected by the distressful news from J&K, holding placards and attracting a large audience of onlookers. IAKF also condemned the role of certain Kashmiri separatist and pseudo-secularist politicians from the valley who have inflamed the public with rumors and misleading statements. IAKF believes the present situation would not be as grave had the J&K Government and the Central government in New Delhi acted with wisdom and foresight.

IAKF Board of Directors

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 September 2010 21:03