Under heavy guard, around 25,000 Amarnath pilgrims stranded in the Kashmir valley travelled back home on Monday as authorities resumed the sacred journey after a three-day suspension.
Pilgrims were stuck at Baltal and Pahalgam since the weekend because of the unrest that followed after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in a gun battle with security forces.
As the precautionary suspension of the Amaranath Yatra was lifted, devotees waiting in Jammu proceeded for Baltal under tight security. Officials said they would review the situation before dispatching the next batch.
Meanwhile, pilgrims leaving Jammu for the cave shrine sounded unfazed by the trouble in the Valley.
“It’s a great feeling that we are going (to the holy cave),” said Pranav Shah from Kanpur.
“Our wish has been granted. Finally, we’ll have the darshan (of the sacred site),” added Puja Bhan, a Delhi resident.
Another pilgrim from Kanpur, Sanjay Nigam, said violent demonstrations in the valley were no deterrent to his spiritual journey.
“We are not scared. We are glad that the yatra resumed,” he said. Devotees returning from the Amarnath shrine spoke about the blockade of all major roads in the Valley. Demonstrators, they said, used poles and rocks to stop traffic movements on the national highways.
Freight carriers demanded police escorts for their trucks supplying fuel to the hill regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.
“Anti-national elements are attacking our truckers in the Kashmir valley. Hundreds of our drivers are injured. If the government doesn’t provide security to them, we will stop oil supplies,” warned Anan Sharma, the president of the Oil Tankers’ Union.