INDIA, January 31, 2018 (UCA News): The federal National Green Tribunal (NGT) decided to maintain its order that pilgrims to Amarnath Shrine remain silent inside the cave, which houses a nine-foot-tall ice pillar considered to be the symbol of Hindu Lord Shiva. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus each year walk the treacherous mountain path to the cave situated at an altitude of 12,756 ft, some 87 miles from Srinagar, capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. The tribunal’s latest order comes in response to a petition filed by Hindu organizations to review its January 2017 order which said the shrine area should be a “silent zone” and banned singing prayers inside the cave. The tribunal said there was no “patent error” in its order which is aimed at protecting the environment as well as the cave shrine, which is a place of faith for millions of Hindus.
However, the judgment was condemned by Hindu organizations. Environmentalists like Shakeel Ahmad Ramsoo, a senior professor of earth sciences at the University of Kashmir, say they do not understand how silence alone will help preserve the ecosystem as several other issues have been overlooked. The tribunal hasn’t looked at the issues of soil and water pollution in the region. “One fails to understand how silence can preserve the fragile environment there,” Ramsoo told ucanews.com. Nivedita Khandekar, a Delhi-based environmental journalist, said helicopters ferrying people make a powerful noise during take-off and landing that can trigger avalanches but the tribunal has been silent on the issue.