Long march for survival

43 MP pilgrims walk 40 km,on hills & through forests to safety

Written by Sanjay Singh | Rudraprayag | Published: June 22, 2013 3:20:05 am

THE nature sneaked up on them with all its fury but they were not subdued. Instead,they took on the elements head on and came through with little more than tired,drained bodies.

They can be excused that,the 43 pilgrims from Madhya Pradesh,for not often would they have walked about 40 km of perilous landslide-buried paths through ravaged landscapes as they did over the past few days.

The pilgrims to Kedarnath were at Chadrapuri near Gaurikund when the water moved in and hillsides came crashing down. “The bus which took us to Chandrapuri was swept away and our hotel was damaged,” said Radhika Prasad. “We climbed up a hill and took shelter there.” The pilgrims,several of them women,spent the night there and the next day and night going up and down a range of hills that stretched before them.

Then they came down to a village. “People we found on the way guided us to the road to Rudraprayag. We kept walking. We spent five nights in the forest,” said Ganpati. In the forest,the men in the group would take turns to keep guard while others slept. “Thankfully,nothing bad happened,” Ganpati said.

On Friday,the pilgrims reached Rudraprayag,to the astonishment of whoever came to know about their journey. They are now in a relief camp,waiting to be driven to Rishikesh.

The pilgrims have with them the water they had collected from Yamunotri,Gangotri and Badrinath. “We planned to collect water from Mandakini at Kedarnath and take all of it to Rameshwaram and Amarnath,” said Nathu Singh. “We will keep the water. If luck favours,we will collect water from Kedarnath next year and then take our journey to Rameshwaram and Amarnath.”

Bruised and battered,but safe

IT was harrowing,the four days in the forests of Kedar valley. It chills them to even recollect what they went through.

There was no one around to help and this group of pilgrims,many young and several old,couldn’t keep going because the bushes and thorns of the forest they were forced into after floods and landslides ravaged Kedarnath,Rambada and Gaurikund had left their feet and legs swollen and bleeding. Then the army men came and airlifted them to Gauchar.

In this group of 19 was Sitadeva Maa,67,of Devarpalli village in Andhra Pradesh,who watched fellow pilgrim Nagaratama perish on the way from Kedarnath to Rambada on the evening of June 16.

“The incessant rain forced us to climb a hill. But then rocks started falling down,” Maa told The Indian Express through a translator,a fellow pilgrim. The army has deployed one of its men who speaks Telugu to help Maa.

Sitadeva,another elderly member of the group,was so hungry when she reached the relief camp she couldn’t stop asking for more biscuits. “There was no drinking water in the forest but she courageously walked with the team for more than 10 km and climbed up and down mountains,” said another pilgrim.

Chhaya Jat of Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur is all of 15 years and the experience had left her scarred. “I am alive because of God’s blessings. My legs were swollen after climbing one mountain after another through incessant rain,” she said. So much so,she said,that her mother had to pay Rs 15,000 to a local villager to carry her to Gaurikund. “I couldn’t walk. We saw a villager and he asked for Rs 15,000 to carrying me on his back from that place to Gaurikund,” she said.

Ramavatar of Khategain village in Madhya Pradesh’s Devas district recounted his journey thus: “We were a team of 17 persons. Some stayed at Rambada. But since Rambada was crowded,I moved to Gaurikund.” He put up at a shop and a few hours later,a landslide destroyed it. He escaped somehow and spent the night on a hill.

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