Officials temporarily suspend annual Hindu pilgrimage in Indian-controlled Kashmir

08:44, July 04, 2011      

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Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir Sunday temporarily suspended annual pilgrimage to the holy Hindu shrine of Amarnath due to inclement weather, officials said.

"Pilgrimage from both Baltal and Pahalgam routes has been temporarily suspended due to bad weather," a government official said. "The rains that started yesterday evening has left the track slippery."

Pilgrimage to holy cave, located 3,888 meters above sea level, is regulated through Baltal and Pahalgam routes. Officials have set up base camps for pilgrims at Baltal (around 120 km north of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir) and Pahalgam town (around, 95 km south of Srinagar).

"So far, more than 70,000 pilgrims have visited the holy cave," India's official broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) in a report on Sunday said.

Reports pouring in said pilgrims who left Jammu city, the winter capital of region Sunday morning for pilgrimage tried to disrupt vehicular traffic after they were halted at Patnitop, citing precautions. The policemen had to resort to cane charging to stop the agitating pilgrims.

Officials said the pilgrimage will be allowed to resume following improvement in weather.

Authorities have deployed 10,000 policemen and India's Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel to ensure hassle free pilgrimage.

In 1996, at least 243 pilgrims were killed on the route to the shrine to bad weather.

The 45-day long pilgrimage to the holy cave located 3,888 meters above sea level housing the ice stalagmite began on June 28 amid tight security and adequate measures. It is expected to end by Aug. 13.

The pilgrimage has previously been targeted by militant groups fighting New Delhi's rule in the region.

Last year 500,000 pilgrims visited the holy cave despite months of unrest in the region.

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