Anantnag: Amid unprecedented security arrangements the first batch of Amarnath yatris were flagged off to the Amarnath cave on Thursday morning, soon after they unfurled the Indian national flag at the Nunwan base camp here in Pahalgam.
Interacting with the media, the yatris expressed displeasure over the “negative” media campaign against Kashmir, and appreciated the locals for their hospitality and welcome.
Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Syed Abid flagged off the first batch from the Nunwan base camp early in the morning. According to official reports, a total of 4,823 pilgrims started the trek towards the holy cave from Chandanwari in Pahalgam.
“This includes 1,928 yatris who were flagged off from the Nunwan base camp. They were joined by the yatris who preferred to stay at hotels in Chandanwari,” a senior official in the district administration told Kashmir Reader.
The enthusiastic pilgrims unfurled the Indian national flag at the flagging-off ceremony, raising slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Bum Bum Bholey”.
Talking to reporters at Nunwan, the pilgrims said they were unhappy and concerned at the negative media coverage of Kashmir. They said they had apprehensions for their safety but these vanished as soon as they reached Kashmir.
“The TV channels portray as if there is a war going on in Kashmir. But what we experience on the ground is quite the opposite of that,” Gautam, a pilgrim from Kerala, told reporters.
Others chipped in saying that the security arrangements were impeccable and the locals associated with the yatra had been warm and gracious.
“Pony wallahs, drivers, police men, everybody I have met since yesterday has been friendly and hospitable,” said Anil Malhotra from Rajasthan.
Malhotra appealed to people back home to shun their negative notions about Kashmir and to visit the place. “As a yatri or a tourist, however they want to,” he said.
Security arrangements for the 40-day pilgrimage have been unprecedented this year. The national highway and the Khannabal-Pahalgam (KP) road are literally flooded with uniformed men. Every 100 meters one can see a cache of armed troops standing guard for the pilgrims.
Some reports suggest that apart from police personnel, a total of 30,000 troopers have been deployed to safeguard the yatris on both routes, the traditional Pahalgam route and the new Baltal track.
“The concentration of the troops is more in the southern part of the valley,” a police official told Kashmir Reader.