Responding to news articles and social media posts that raised alarm about 400 Hindu pilgrims being stranded at Vaishno Devi due to the nationwide lockdown, the administration has said that no one is stranded at the shrine.
The administration has added that there are 406 people who were stranded due to the lockdown across various bus stops and railway stations in Jammu, and have been provided shelter, food and lodging, but denied reports that they were all Hindu pilgrims.
How Did the Confusion Begin?
On 22 of March ANI put out a tweet with the claim that over 400 people from Bihar who came on pilgrimage trip to Vaishno Devi are requesting Bihar and Uttarakhand governmetns to provide them transportation to their hometowns.
This was then followed up by advocate Monika Kohli in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The court directed the administration to provide relief to the pilgrims. When The Quint reached out to Kohli, she said she had based her petition on the ANI tweet.
Her petition was also picked up by various media channels.
Katra Admin Denies Reports
Ramesh Kumar Jangid, CEO Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, dismissed these rumours and said that pilgrimage to the shrine had been stopped days before the lockdown was announced on 22 March, "Some news spreading in social media regarding 400 yatris stranded in Vaishno Devi. It is clarified that not one yatri is stranded in Katra or Vaishno Devi. Yatra stopped on 18th March much before lockdown."
Some news spreading in social media regarding 400 yatris stranded in Vaishno Devi.Its clarified that no one yatri stranded in Katra or Vaishno Devi.Yatra stopped on 18th March much before lock down.#ANI— Ramesh Kumar Jangid (@Rameshkumarias) March 31, 2020
Deputy Commissioner of Reasi, under whose jurisdiction the shrine falls, also said no yatri has been stranded adding that seven people who wanted to stay back have done so after permission from authorities.
"Mata Vaishno Devi yatra was suspended on 18 March 2020, much before the declaration of lockdown.There is not a single Yatri stranded enroute. However, 7 visitors are staying in Katra, by choice, under quarantine."
Who are the 406 Who Are Stranded in Jammu?
"These 406 people include stranded tourists, Hindu pilgrims, students and a large number of daily-wage workers who could not leave Jammu and reach their homes. Most of them are from Bihar, while many of them are from across India, including Goa, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal. They are being taken care of by the administration. This is not a quarantine facility. This is a place for them to stay where we also have arranged regular medical check ups. There is no need to worry and panic," said Jammu North SDM Pawan Kotwal.
These 406 people are currently staying at the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Jammu's Ban Talab area. They include 273 males, 125 females and 8 children. They were shifted in two batches. On 26 March the daily-wage workers and students were moved and then on 28 March several pilgrims and tourists who were kept at another facility in Trikuta Nagar were also moved here.
"There is food, bathrooms and open spaces here. I'd like to tell their families that if your children or parents are in Jammu they are completely safe and being taken care of. They all want to go home, but we are creating awareness and speaking to them about the precautions one needs to take from COVID-19. They're all right," Kotwal said.
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