India Might Allow Annual Pilgrimage Despite Setting Infection Records for Days

The local government is yet to take a decision on canceling the pilgrimage of 600k people.
Derya Ozdemir
A shot of Hindu pilgrims on the way to the Amarnath cave Aasif Shafi/iStock

Every year, the Amarnath cave shrine in India, located 3,880-meters (12,730 feet) above sea level in the Himalayas, hosts thousands of pilgrims who undertake a miles-long journey by foot to reach there.

Amid the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding in India, the local government in India-administrated Kashmir is now considering whether they should set up makeshift shelters and facilities for 600,000 Hindu pilgrims for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. 

According to DW, two base camps, called Baltal where the pilgrims will have to walk a distance of 14 km (9 miles) and Chandawari with 32 km (20 miles), will be set up.

'The situation is being monitored'

The authorities temporarily suspended online registration for the pilgrimage, which was canceled last year. The reason was the spike in daily COVID-19 cases; however, the website still states today the pilgrimage will take place as intended from June 28 through August 22, lasting for a total of 56 days. 

In April, at least 30,000 people registered from different parts of India for the pilgrimage, according to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which is behind the pilgrimage, as reported by Hindustan Times.

"In view of evolving COVID situation in the country & (and) the need to take all necessary precautionary measures, registration for Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra is being temporarily suspended. The situation is being constantly monitored and it would be reopened once the situation improves," the SASB wrote in a statement. 

The news of the pilgrimage is raising concerned voices among India, especially seeing opposition from health experts. Many fear that the Amarnath pilgrimage could worsen the situation in India and more specifically in Kashmir.

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