J&K principal secretary, govt officials visit Amarnath shrine for ‘puja’ days after Yatra is called off

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Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu |
June 25, 2021 9:16:26 am

A screengrab of the video where the officials can be seen performing the 'puja'.

Jammu and Kashmir principal secretary Nitishwar Kumar and a few other bureaucrats performed the “pratham puja” at the Amarnath shrine on Thursday barely 3 days after Lt Governor Manoj Sinha called off the “yatra” for the general public keeping the current Covid-19 situation in mind.

Nitishwar Kumar, who was seen at the shrine with his wife and children, also happens to be the chief executive officer of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. Other officials present for the ceremony include additional CEO of the Shrine Board Anup Kumar Soni and his wife, deputy commissioner Ganderbal Krittika Jyotsna and her husband Rahul Pandey, who is also the director of information and public Relations.

Apart from government officials, the national joint general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Dr Surendra Jain, its J&K working president Rajesh Gupta and his wife, and Baba Budha Amarnath Yatra Nyas leaders Shakti Dutt Sharma, Karan Singh and Sudershan Khajuria were also present.

All of them flew to the shrine in helicopter sorties hired by the Shrine Board from Neelgrath helipad near Baltal in Sonamarg.

Additional CEO of the Shrine Board, Anup Kumar Soni, said it was an official function and denied that officials were accompanied by family members He added that Krittika Jyotsna and her husband Rahul Pandey were present in their official capacities. “My children were not there,” he informed. However, he clarified that his wife went along with him as the Shrine Board had invited a few members on the occasion.

Speaking about the ceremony, a VHP leader informed that there had been an agreement between the government and Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti after the 2009 agitation that some leaders of the VHP and Baba Budha Amarnath Yatra Nyas will be allowed for the “pratham puja” at the shrine. “Except for 2018, the ceremony was being held at places other than the shrine. However, this time, we insisted that it shall be organized at the shrine,” he added.

Senior Advocate Leela Karan Sharma, who led the 2009 Amarnath agitation, however, denied that there had been any written agreement about it with the government although the Shrine Board had been inviting VHP and Nyas leaders for the puja every year since 2010.

The concept of “pratham puja” at Amarnath shrine was started by erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State Governor retired Lt General S K Sinha in 2004.

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