JAMMU: Special prayers marked the foundation day celebration of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday amid protest by the Baridar community, who used to manage the affairs of the shrine before the formation of the board, demanding restoration of their rights.

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board was formed on this day in 1986.

To mark the day, religious ceremonies were organised at the shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district, base camp Katra, Jammu and other locations in which the staff of the shrine board and pilgrims participated, a spokesperson of the board said in a statement.

He said the employees of the board took a pledge on this occasion to perform their duties with “sincerity and devotion”.

Chief Executive Officer of the Shrine Board Ramesh Kumar appreciated the contribution and dedication of the employees for providing the best services to the pilgrims even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He extended his gratitude to Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha, who is also the chairman of the board, for his support and guidance in undertaking various initiatives for the pilgrims.

At Katra, the main function was held at Niharika Complex where special ‘pooja and havan’ were performed, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Baridar community took out a protest rally in Katra town, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the shrine, demanding restoration of their rights.

They observed the foundation day as ‘black day’ and staged a protest rally.

“We are observing black day today against the formation of the shrine board. It was on this day that the then Jammu and Kashmir Governor Jagmohan forced us out and took control of the shrine,” a spokesperson of the Baridars said.