Ahead of commencement of the annual Amarnath yatra, authorities have directed security agencies to ensure multi-tier security set-up, including round-the- clock patrolling on the highway, to ensure smooth and peaceful conduct of the 40-day long yatra.
Around 5 lakh pilgrims are expected to undertake the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Amarnath. The yatra begins on June 29 and will conclude on August 7 from the twin routes of Baltal in Ganderbal and Pahalgam. It is believed that the stalagmite inside the 3,880-metre-high cave resembles the lingam of Lord Shiva.
Official sources said that security personnel will be deployed for road opening parties (ROPs) at base camps and at the cave. The Jammu and Kashmir government has sought 27,000 security men from the Centre, mostly CRPF jawans for the smooth conduct of the yatra. Last year, 20,000 men of the central forces and the state police were deployed along the route.
Officials have maintained that though there are no specific threats, the Centre and the state are not willing to take any risk and have ordered for foolproof security.
An elaborate four-tier security system has been planned from Baltal route that will be handled jointly by the paramilitary forces, Army and the local police. “50 companies of central paramilitary forces besides police and other security agencies have been deputed for the yatra duty,” official sources said.
While pilgrims can make a visit to the shrine within one day using the Baltal route, they prefer to take the Pahalgam route, which takes four days.
At the Baltal base camp, shopkeepers, tent providers and pony wallas have already put up their stalls, giving the entire area the semblance of a large tourist haunt.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N. N. Vohra and Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi are likely to pay obeisance at the shrine on the first day of the pilgrimage.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Piyush Singla and SSP Ganderbal, Fayaz Ahmed, had held a series of meetings with concerned officials for the smooth conduct of the yatra.
Meanwhile, Governor N. N. Vohra who is also Chairman of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), chaired a meeting of senior officers of the state administration, Army, Paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies at the Raj Bhavan to review the preparations and the decisions that had been taken in the first security review meeting that was held on May 15.
The Governor stressed the need for all concerned agencies to keep a sustained close watch and maintain seamless co-ordination to ensure the security of the yatra.
In the meeting, an extensive review was made of all important issues related to the yatra that included preparedness for meeting any unforeseen situation arising during the yatra, proper functioning of the Joint Control Rooms at every yatra camp, linking of Joint Control Rooms with MET Department and District Disaster Management units, deployment of Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) of the state police along with rescue teams of various security forces at identified locations on both the yatra routes, deployment of well-equipped fire fighting teams at pre-determined points.
Meanwhile, separatist and chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Geelani had said that the alleged ‘terror threat’ to the upcoming Amarnath Yatra was a “calculated move to malign the struggle of Kashmiris.”
In his statement he denounced the misinformation campaign. He said, “People in Kashmir while continuing with the age-old tradition of providing best hospitality to pilgrims have always been friendly and generous to visitors and particularly to Amarnath pilgrims.
“Amarnath yatra is being conducted for decades and the people here have treated the pilgrims with hospitality and received them as their guests. However, adverse propaganda has been launched that the yatris may face terror threat. This a lie.”