Amarnath Yatra is a military project, says Geelani, calls bandh

Terming the annual Amarnath Yatra as a "military project to strengthen the Indian occupation" of Kashmir, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for shutdown on September 4 to protest against the "politicization of Yatra".

"Amarnath Yatra is going on for the past 145 years. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are not against it. Instead they host these pilgrims and will continue to do so," Geelani said at a press conference in Srinagar. "But now India has given it (yatra) the shape of a military project to continue the Indian occupation of Kashmir."

This is for the first time since the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation that the separatists have vehemently spoken against what they call the sudden increase in the number of Amarnath pilgrims visiting the holy cave shrine in the mountains of south Kashmir. The separatist tirade has come after the apex court directed the government to construct a road to the cave shrine and create infrastructure for the pilgrims.

Geelani said that the number of Amarnath pilgrims to the valley has increased under a definite plan from the government. "People from across India are advised to visit Kashmir (for the yatra)," he said. "(This is done) so that Kashmiris are intimidated and given to believe that India is not going to leave them."

Geelani based his arguments on an article published on the website of Press Information Bureau in 2008. "The urge to salvation will attract the devotees towards the challenging heights of Kashmir. Because this would also be an act of solidarity with our brave soldiers who are at war with the enemy to guard our border," Geelani quoted the article. The Hurriyat leader also quoted from A G Noorani's article that terms the yatra as "communal aggression devoid of any religious piety".

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