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Tight Security in Kashmir as Hindus Begin Holy Trek

More than 3,000 Hindu devotees began an annual pilgrimage to a mountain cave shrine in Indian Kashmir amid tight security on Wednesday to protect pilgrims from militants who have attacked the trek in the past. Officials said about 20,000 policemen had been deployed along the 380-km (240-mile) route to an ice formation deep in the Himalayas which Hindus believe symbolizes Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Pilgrims ranging from saffron-clad holy men to prosperous businessmen said they were determined to go ahead with the grueling trek despite a rebel attack on the base camp last year in which nine people were killed. “Shiva is the creator and the destroyer,” said Swami Nirmalanand, a holy man. “I am going to visit his abode. I have no fear of death and if I die on the way to reach him, I will attain nirvana.” Others chanted “Har Har Mahadev” (Hail Lord Shiva). Officials said they were taking no chances during the month-long pilgrimage despite a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan who New Delhi accuses of stoking the 14-year rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad denies the charge. Full Story

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