There is no doubt that the Amarnath Yatra over a period of time has been converted into a march of triumph. It bears marks of a sense of victory over a defeated population. The pilgrims are charged way before the pilgrimage begins to celebrate their arrival in Kashmir both with the pleasures of pilgrimage as well as the victory over a people who dared rise against India. All the noise and cacophony which has lately become a hallmark of the pilgrims tells a story of heightened religious patriotism which does not do much to hide the derision of the local population and their sentiments. Any pilgrimage which rides roughshod over local sentiments and values will naturally receive a response unbecoming of the hosts of pilgrims anywhere in the world. This has been especially the case after the demolition of the Babri Mosque when the number of pilgrims surged to enormous numbers, and a new found zeal swayed over the Hindu pilgrimage. The tone and color of the pilgrimage changed beyond recognition. Previously, the sloganeering associated with the Amarnath pilgrimage was heard more by the pilgrims inside the safe confines of their vehicles than by anyone around among the locals. Or the barefooted sadhus made some loud sounds while uttering hymns even as children were pleased with sweets distributed by the pilgrims. Now there is a special effort to make the sound be heard by the ‘rebellious’ population. The pilgrims sometimes rise to the rooftops of the buses to amplify their voices (and steal walnuts from low hanging branches). Earlier, the pilgrims would inflict suffering on themselves, now the psychological suffering has to be ushered onto the onlookers. In spite of the above changes which have swept the face of the pilgrimage, the local population, true to the age-old traditions have acted as good hosts and done their best to keep the pilgrims in good spirits along the difficult terrain of the yatra. And that should be the case. To return the pilgrimage to its antique spirit, complete with visible bonhomie, the pilgrims have to treat with sanctity any local sentiment Not all the pilgrims who come for the darshan of the mountain god come from the factory of the zealots. There are a vast number of these pilgrims who makes preparation for the pilgrimage well in advance of the time and keep a part of their savings reserved for the yatra. They come from various places of India, from as far a place as Bengaluru. They are really out here for a pilgrimage, to get their wishes fulfilled or get their health back after a propitious sight of their god. With all the disturbance in Kashmir, along with the mayhem and bloodshed, being attributed by the local population to the machinations of India, it is hard for the former not to link the pilgrims with their kin, near or far, in the uniform. That is natural as prejudice in the human heart. However, it is equally true that a large number of these pilgrims have given up on the world, and are in search of peace, to which end they are ready to land their feet on 9000 feet above sea level. It is not critical whether the pilgrims were registered or not, or whether their bus was registered or not, or even whether they had broken the schedule or that they had been taken for a ride by the tourist company. Even if there was a breach, that does not let the murderers go away scot-free. They have to be nabbed and justice served to them. You do not kill someone because they broke some security timeline, or arrived in the wrong bus. Second, to return the pilgrimage to its antique spirit, with the visible bonhomie, the pilgrims have to treat the local sentiment with sanctity. It does not mean surrendering your sentiment but letting things go especially when the local sentiment is suffused with blood. Thirdly, the local population on its part has to display a greater degree of magnanimity, without getting carried away by the triumphalism being loaded on to the pilgrimage. Sometimes, a stern calm before intense sloganeering can become a greater slogan. They have to remember that there is a great chunk of the pilgrims who have not come to see springs and forests of Kashmir or take gondola rides in Gulmarg but to get themselves cured, and be healed by the mercy of their god. To help such a pilgrim and giving water to him, would do a far greater good to the giver and his community than many other things in the world. The youth who have suffered a lot during the unrest and violence in Kashmir, mostly at the hands of the security apparatus, have to be trained to give the pilgrims a good treatment. With the yatra severed from politicking on either side, we will look forward to happier times for the pilgrims, and hopefully for their hosts in the future. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 14th , 2017.