Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday hit out at separatists for opposing Kousarnag Yatra on the ground of environment protection, saying the local people were doing more harm to the ecology of the region.
"I don't understand how 150 people visiting a lake can in any way do more damage to the environment than we ourselves do. Please visit Gulmarg, Pahalgam or Sonmarg where people have gone during this long weekend and see the mess they leave there," Omar told reporters.
Citing the example of Dal Lake in the city, he said, "See the mess we create in Dal Lake."
"I think we create far more damage to the environment than 150 persons visiting a lake," he added. Omar also criticised the local administration over the handling of the Kousarnag Yatra issue.
"While I understand the need of these people to continuously coin political slogans, the mistake was on part of the administration... the way they handled the issue.
Otherwise there is nothing to be feared from this issue," he said.
"They rake up issues with emotional value and they convert it into political slogan," he said. Separatists had called for a strike to protest against the plans of a Kashmiri Pandit organisation to start an annual pilgrimage to Kousarnag Lake in south Kashmir from Kulgam in addition to the traditional route from Reasi.
The state government did not allow the Pandits to perform the yatra as the pilgrimage had taken place from the traditional route, leading to accusations from some political parties that it had succumbed to pressure from separatists.