No mantra chanting or bells at Amarnath cave as NGT declares it ‘silent zone’

No mantra chanting or bells at Amarnath cave as NGT declares it 'silent zone'

A controversial decision by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to ban chanting of religious hymns and slogans at the Amarnath cave shrine has evoked sharp reactions from netizens and Hindu groups alike.

The move purportedly intends to curb noise pollution in the area.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was especially vocal against the directive issued to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, dubbed it as a “weird and direct attack by the NGT on the religious sentiments of Hindus”.

News agency ANI first posted about the development on its Twitter handle, stating: “NGT directs shrine board that there should be no chanting of ‘mantras’ or ‘jaykaras’ in Amarnath. NGT also directs that there should be single line of people walking towards the cave from the last check post.”

It later followed up with another tweet. “#NGT to Amarnath Shrine Board: There should be no ringing of bells. No mobiles or belongings to be carried beyond last check post. Shrine board must consider making a store room where people can keep their belongings.”

Advocate Leela Karan Sharma, state VHP president and face of the 2008 Amarnath land agitation, said: “This is totally wrong. It is a direct attack on our religion. We won’t tolerate this autocratic directive.”

Sharma went on to question whether chanting of religious hymns and slogans could actually cause noise pollution. “Has the NGT banned Azaan (the call to prayer raised by Muslims)? We take strong exception to this,” he said.

The directive was greeted by equally acerbic responses on Twitter. “Then stop everything… Azaan… church bells… gurdwara bhajans & Buddhist prayers… If you cannot stop them, we will continue with our practices & rituals,” a netizen posted.

Top officials, including principal secretary to governor Umang Narula (also the CEO of the Amarnath and Vaishno Devi shrine boards), could not be contacted for comment.

Over 2.6 lakh pilgrims visited the cave shrine in South Kashmir from June 29 to August 7 as part of their annual pilgrimage.