Anantnag: Amid unprecedented security, about 3,000 pilgrims of the Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra (SAJY) on Wednesday reached the two base camps in Pahalgam (Anantnag district) and Baltal (Ganderbal district).
The pilgrims were flagged off from Jammu early morning by the two advisors to the Governor, BB Vyas and K Vijay Kumar, and the new Chief Secretary, BVR Subhramanyam.
According to official figures, the first batch of 2,995 pilgrims — 2,334 men, 520 women, 21 children and 120 sadhus — was flagged off from Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu at about 4:30 in the morning.
The pilgrims reached their first destination — the base camps in Nunwan in Pahalgam and Baltal in Ganderbal, from where they will be flagged off Thursday morning towards the holy cave.
“1,904 pilgrims have chosen the traditional Pahalgam route and 1,901 have chosen the Baltal route,” the authorities said.
Speaking after flagging off the pilgrims, BB Vyas said that coordinated efforts have been put in place to ensure smooth and safe conduct of the yatra.
Kumar said that authorities were trying their best to address concerns of the yatris and ensure smooth flow of traffic.
Security has been beefed up in Kashmir valley for the 40-day-long annual pilgrimage to the holy cave in Amarnath.
Multiple checkpoints have come up along the national highway and on the Khannabal-Pahalgam (KP) Road in Anantnag to ensure safe and smooth conduct of the yatra.
While at many places small bunkers have been erected using sand bags, a huge bunker has sprung overnight at a roundabout park near Mattan area in Anantnag district, along the KP Road.
Hundreds of government forces’ men have been deployed along both the Pahalgam and Baltal routes.
Government forces have been conducting regular frisking of local vehicles.
“Barricades were set up at many places and vehicles, mostly local ones, have been put on halt and searches conducted,” local sources said.
The forces have not only been deployed on the yatra routes but other roads in the Valley are also being heavily manned by government troops.
“On the apple valley route through Bijbehara towards Pahalgam, heavy deployment of forces has been made,” sources said, adding that a bunker or two have sprung up on this road.
A senior police official told Kashmir Reader that security agencies were leaving nothing to chance.
“There are strong inputs that militants will carry out an attack on the yatra, hence the security arrangements,” he said.
Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid also recently said that militants were planning to target the yatra.
The militants have refuted the allegations. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo in an audio message released on Tuesday made it amply clear that the militants were not going to target the yatra.
“They are here to perform their religious duties and we have no business disrupting those,” Naikoo said.
An attack on the yatris last year, on July 10, left at least 8 yatris dead.
On the first day of the yatra movement, messy traffic jams were witnessed in Khannabal area of Anantnag — the entry point to the KP Road. Hundreds of vehicles remained stranded amid scorching heat as the forces kept “regulating” the traffic and frisking vehicles in tandem.