The Jammu and Kashmir government has withdrawn a press release that said the Amarnath Yatra has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the country to a standstill.
A press note released earlier today said the pilgrimage scheduled from June 23 to August 3 was cancelled by the Amarnath shrine board during a video conference meeting. The decision on the annual pilgrimage would be taken soon after a review of the coronavirus situation, the board said later.
"Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation being dynamic, an appropriate decision can be taken on organising the (Amarnath) Yatra on reviewing the situation in the coming future," a fresh statement said.
Last year, Amarnath yatra pilgrims had to cut short their stay in the holy shrine in Jammu and Kashmir after there were intelligence inputs of terror threats post the scrapping of Article 370 in the erstwhile-state.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted after the first press note was withdrawn. "Once again proving the point that these days nothing to do with J&K actually gets decided in J&K," he said.
There are 77 COVID-19 Red zones in Kashmir valley from which the yatra is supposed to pass through. The board, at the meeting, observed that the establishment of langars, camps, medical facilities and clearing snow would not be possible due to the deadly virus that has affected 380 people in the union territory, the press note had said.
Lieutenant Governor, Girish Chandra Murmu, who is also the chairman of the Amarnath Yatra board, in the press note, said with the nationwide lockdown already in place, the situation is unpredictable and the safety of the pilgrims is of utmost importance.
However, pujas will be conducted with "traditional fervour", Mr Murmu said, according to the press release.
The board also said they were trying to explore possibilities of telecasting the puja and darshan of shivlinga online for millions of devotees worldwide.
In the now-withdrawn press release, the Board expressed that cancelling the yatra should also set an example for everyone to avoid such congregations during the pandemic.