Kanwar mela: Alert in Uttarakhand

PTI, Aug 8, 2007, 04.18pm IST

DEHRA DUN: Uttarakhand police has been put on high alert following a series of clashes between locals and Kanwarias at many places in the state with environmentalists calling for a ban on pilgrims’ movements at Gangotri.

The incidents have taken place at Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Haridwar and other parts of the state where Kanwarias are either clashing with the locals or having skirmishes with police.

An army of more than 3000 police personnel has been deployed at several sensitive areas of the state as nearly 40 lakh Kanwarias have visited Uttarakhand so far, DIG (Garhwal) Ashok Kumar said.

Kumar said the police was having a tough time in dealing with the annual Kanwar mela that attracts nearly 70 lakh Kanwarias, devotees of Lord Shiva.

Meanwhile, social activists and several seers have joined hands in calling for a check on the movement of Kanwarias in Gangotri area in Uttarakashi district which is considered to be highly eco-fragile due to its rich biodiversity.

Environmentalists have called for a complete ban on the collection of Bhojpatra, a unique tree having tremendous medicinal qualities which is on the verge of extinction, at Gangotri forests due to its massive uprooting mainly by thousands of Kanwarias.

“Bhojpatra of Gangotri has vanished absolutely. Bhojvasa, a place at Gangotri area, has been devoid of Bhojpatra forests,” says Harshwanti Bisht, an environmentalist, who is working on Bhojpatra.

[Original Article]