Amarnath Yatra begins; first batch leaves amid multi-level security
The 46-day-long Amarnath Yatra officially started on Monday, with the first batch of pilgrims leaving for the holy shrine in the morning. The cave of Lord Shiva is located at an altitude of 3,888 meters in south Kashmir's Anantnag. Nearly 1.6 lakh people got themselves enrolled this time. To prevent any untoward incident, more than 40,000 security personnel have been deployed. Here's more.
Thousands of pilgrims reached Sonamarg and Baltal base camps on Sunday evening. These camps are located in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district. From the base camps, the pilgrims will trek for 14 kilometers to reach the holy cave. The gates of the cave will close on August 15. Before the yatra, Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh took stock of security arrangements.
To avoid a redux of the 2017 terror attack, personnel of Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Forces, BSF, and other paramilitary forces, are dotting the national highway. Apart from this, CCTV cameras have been installed at almost every corner. Drones have been pressed into service to keep an eye on dense forests. Meanwhile, modern bullet-proof vehicles have also been sent to the valley.
Interestingly, three-layer security has been put in place with Army and BSF guarding the first layer. J&K police along with CRPF are responsible for inner layers, including pathways, movement of the convoy, and safety of camps. They will also take care of the road opening party (ROP) between Jammu and Jawahar tunnel. CRPF will also handle the security of camps where pilgrims would stay.
Undoubtedly, authorities aren't willing to take any risk, especially since 123 terrorists from different outfits have been gunned down till June this year. "These groups have been looking to avenge these killings. Yatra becomes an easy target. The threat on Pahalgam route is high but we have been careful on Baltal route as well," an official privy with security arrangements told ET.
Notably, there has been a surge in IED blasts in 2019, with the deadliest one being the Pulwama attack. Just last month, two soldiers were killed in an IED blast. To ward off any mishap, CRPF came up with a detailed advisory for the pilgrims. "Anything that is hidden, obviously suspicious and not typical, should be deemed to be suspicious," the advisory reportedly read.
Meanwhile, last week, Union Home Minister Amit Shah paid a visit to Kashmir and reviewed security arrangements. He directed officials to stay on their toes. This will also be the first yatra to be organized under the watch of J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, who is also the chairman of Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board. He is expected to visit the shrine on Monday.