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Muslims support the Amarnath Yatra

Thursday, June 26, 2008 (Jammu)
Hindus have been going on the Amarnath Yatra for decades, ever since a family of Muslim shepherds discovered the holy cave. 

The logistics of the trip have always been provided by the local Kashmiri Muslims who, since the beginning, took it upon themselves to make the Hindu pilgrimage a success. Then in 2000, the state took over and things began getting complicated.

The new laws were specific about who would run the show - a Hindu or a Muslim. And the debate is whether the Yatra should be Hindu or Muslim. 

But the Amarnath Yatra would perhaps not be possible with the support of the local Muslims and life would be difficult for the local Muslims if thousands of Hindus did not make the trip every year providing them with a livelihood.

Bashir Ahmad looks forward to the Amarnath Yatra all year. He sells walking sticks to the yatris at Baltal but more than business, serving the pilgrims gives him a sense of satisfaction.

''We do good business during the yatra. We make sticks for Rs six and sell them for Rs 10,'' says Bashir Ahmed, a carpenter.

A great fan of Bashir Ahmad's walking sticks, Bal Krishan is making his 10th trip to Amarnath.

''I am coming here for the last 10 years. It's very beneficial,'' he says.

The Amarnath Yatra would be incomplete without local involvement. In fact, it was a Kashmiri Muslim family that discovered the cave. 

The locals were also instrumental in relief and rescue operations in 1996, when a snowstorm killed 200 on the Yatra route.

Local people wait for the whole year for the two months of Amarnath Yatra so that they are able to do good business during the Yatra days. Clearly, Yatra helps to boost the local economy as well.

At the holy cave, the market is run by local Muslims. They have set up hundreds of stalls and sell prasad to the pilgrims.

The Yatra is a symbol of unity and bonding between the local Muslims and the pilgrims. 

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