Nestled on the banks of the enchanting River Mandakini, the divine presence of the jyotirlinga Kedarnath in Uttarakhanda transports us to a realm of celestial beauty. Here, amidst the grandeur of nature, devotees from all walks of life embark on the sacred Chardham Yatra, a spiritual pilgrimage that includes a visit to Kedarnath. However, as we tread the path towards spiritual enlightenment, a dark reality looms in the shadows, casting a shadow upon the sanctity of this revered place.

Mules and Horses and drugged, beaten to Death: 

To reach the hallowed grounds of Kedarnath, one must undertake a challenging 14-kilometer trek, where the options of using helicopter services or mules present themselves. While these beasts of burden were once seen as a means of assistance, their present condition paints a distressing picture. Cruelty and neglect have become an all too common part of their existence, as they are subjected to a life of immense suffering. Severely overworked, these innocent creatures endure unimaginable pain, fueled by a combination of drug-induced stupor and merciless beatings. The weight of their burden, both physical and emotional, becomes unbearable, resulting in a staggering number of mule deaths. Shocking reports indicate that over 310 mules lost their lives last year alone.

       Pic Credits:  Planet Custodian

In response to the deplorable treatment of these gentle creatures, the Animal Husbandry Department of Kedarnath took legal action against 13 mule owners for violating the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Yet, the number of equines receiving medical treatment continues to rise, with a heart-wrenching 310 deemed beyond salvation. The mule service, despite its significant revenue of nearly 101 crore rupees, has become a silent accomplice to this ongoing tragedy.

What can we do? 
Mule service costs around 2100 rps 
While the Helicopter services cost around 5000-6000 rps
We can use Helicopter services or go 14 kms by walk, which is not what big deal. 
As we grapple with this moral conundrum, we must explore alternatives that respect both the sanctity of this pilgrimage and the lives of these sentient beings. One such solution lies in embracing technology, offering pilgrims a humane and eco-friendly mode of transportation. Alternatively, embarking on a journey by foot, taking approximately 15,000 steps or three hours, not only ensures a personal connection with the surroundings but also eliminates the need for mules altogether.

Mule Task Force:  An initiative by Animal Husbandry Dept 

The devastating events of April 25th witnessed a staggering number of mules being lost forever, their lifeless bodies unceremoniously flung into the sacred waters of the Mandakini River. Those that remained were left in dire conditions, a harrowing testament to the decline of our humanity. In response to these distressing circumstances, the Mule Task Force, comprising 30 dedicated individuals from the Prantiya Rakshak Dal (PRD), has been trained and equipped to monitor the welfare of these equines. Their unwavering presence offers a glimmer of hope, a beacon in the face of darkness.

It is time for a collective awakening, for pilgrims and authorities alike to recognize the urgency of change. Let us ensure that the sacred grounds of Kedarnath are not tainted by the cries of suffering animals, but instead resonate with compassion and kindness. Together, we can rewrite the narrative, heralding a new era where the harmony between spirituality and animal welfare flourishes, and the divine abode of Kedarnath truly becomes a haven of compassion.

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