With thousands of Amarnath pilgrims making night halts at multiple places in Jammu’s Ramban, the 66-km National Highway 44 stretch passing through the hilly district has been seeing a massive effort by multiple social and religious organisations to ensure that these people do not go hungry.
This was on display Wednesday when vehicles that were not part of the official convoy were made to turn back toward Banihal from the Navayuga Tunnel owing to an encounter in Kulgam district. Around 7,000 people, mostly pilgrims, then converged at a vast ground illuminated with LED lights at Lamber near the Banihal toll plaza.
They were in for a pleasant surprise — within an hour, dozens of langars lined up to serve them free vegetarian food, comprising dishes from all parts of the country.
The pilgrims resumed their journey towards Kashmir at around 5 am the next morning, officials in the Ramban district administration said.
Two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed in the Kulgam encounter. As the encounter site was “very close” to the yatra route, the authorities decided not to allow any person to proceed towards the Valley after 1.30 pm and 3 pm — the cut-off timings for crossing Chanderkote in Ramban and Lamber in Banihal, respectively.
“We stop all those who reach Chanderkote from Jammu after 1.30 pm and inform them that they can stay at the Amarnath Shrine Board Yatri Niwas there. Or else they can return and have a night halt at the tourist resorts of Patnitop or Batote,” a senior official said. Those reaching Banihal after 3 pm are diverted towards Lamber and not allowed to cross the Navayuga Tunnel, he added.
Apart from over a dozen langers at Chanderkote Yatri Niwas and 21 at Lamber, there are many others enroute from Nashri to Banihal. They perform a mammoth task, starting early in the morning to prepare breakfast, followed by lunch and dinner for thousands of pilgrims including those coming in the yatra convoy from Jammu.
The official yatra convoy from Jammu has its first halt at around 7-7.30 am at Chanderkote where people are served breakfast and they have lunch at Lamber at around 1.30 pm–2 pm. To ensure that those already having a night halt in Ramban district don’t get mixed up with the official yatra convoy coming from Jammu in the morning, these people, after a light breakfast, are made to resume their journey to Kashmir by 6–6.30 am from Chanderkote and 6.30–7 am from Lamber in Banihal, officials said.
These langars are massive facilities created by social and religious organisations under makeshift tents to serve pilgrims.
And they will be around to feed the returning pilgrims.
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