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Amarnath Yatra: First Batch Of Amarnath Pilgrims Leave For Cave Shrine Amid High Security

Amarnath Yatra: First Batch Of Amarnath Pilgrims Leave For Cave Shrine Amid High Security: Amid high security, the first batch of pilgrims to Amarnath left for the famous cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir early this morning to begin this year’s annual pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre high cave shrine. More than 40,000 security forces personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage season.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Security forces are relying heavily on barcoding, RFID, satellite monitoring, live CCTV etc
  • Over 2.5 lakh yatris are expected to visit the holy cave
  • Special Quick Action Teams of the army and the CRPF will guard the highway

A total of 1.6 lakh people from across the country have registered so far for the 46-day long yatra that begins today. While a total of 1,617 pilgrims left from Baltal, 2800 started from Pahalgam for Amarnath cave.

The first batch of pilgrims had left Jammu for the Kashmir Valley on Sunday. The pilgrimage season that officially opened today will see people starting their journeys from the Pahalgam and the Baltal base camps in the valley.

The first convoy of 93 vehicles, including three motorcycles, carrying the pilgrims was flagged off at Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu in the early hours of Sunday by Anantnag district development commissioner Khalid Jahangeer and other police officials.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik told reporters in Srinagar, “The security for the yatra is our responsibility and we are taking care of it. But police or Army do not conduct the yatra. For many years, the Amarnath Yatra is being conducted by the people of Kashmir, especially our Muslim brothers. The yatra takes place with their support.”

Ahead of the Amarnath Yatra, Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh took stock of the security and traffic arrangements on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway on Sunday.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah too had reviewed the security arrangements for the Amarnath Yatra during his visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.

“It will be a peaceful yatra. From the next year onwards, we will not have to worry about the security situation at all,” said Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh who was in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday.

Keeping in mind the security challenges that emerged after the Pulwama terror attack in February, the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) has deployed an enhanced number of its counter-IED teams that will sweep roads and vehicles.

A multi-tier security grid has been formed for the security of pilgrims this year. “A robust security cover has been put in place for the Yatra which includes satellite and chip-based tracking of vehicles and pilgrims. The deployment of forces will be in various layers to ensure smooth conduct of the pilgrimage,” the officials said.

Elaborating upon the security plan, officials said apart from a special motorcycle squad of CRPF personnel with cameras fixed on their helmets accompanying the convoys — which was introduced last year CCTV cameras have been placed at various locations at base camps and sensitive spots along the twin routes, including on the highway.

The 300 additional companies of security forces deployed for the conduct of parliamentary polls in Kashmir have been retained and deployed for the security of the pilgrimage, they said.

Besides the security deployment on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and Yatra routes, stationing personnel in sensitive areas and quick reaction teams (of police and CRPF), mobile vehicle check posts along with technical monitoring, including through drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are all part of the comprehensive security plan.

The officials added that barricades will be erected on the highways soon after the cut-off timing for the movement of security forces’ convoys and pilgrims.

They said each Yatra vehicle will be fitted with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag which will remain under the radars connected with respective control rooms, and no such vehicle will be allowed to cross a particular point after the cut-off timing.

To further strengthen the security apparatus, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has provided every pilgrim with barcodes which will be connected with towers set up at multiple locations along the Yatra route.

Inspector General of CRPF, Ravideep Singh Sahi said stringent security arrangements have been made right from Jammu to the holy cave shrine.

“The forces have been divided sector-wise and (each sector) includes components like ROP (road opening parties), night area domination, law and order and QRTs (quick reaction teams). This comprehensive plan has been made based on the experience of last year as well as that of previous years,” he said.

In 2017, terrorists attacked a bus carrying pilgrims, leaving eight pilgrims dead and several injured. Last year the pilgrimage season went off peacefully.

According to the devotees, situated at 3,888 metres above sea-level, the Amarnath shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that symbolises the mythical powers of Lord Shiva. Pilgrims trek through mountains to reach the holy cave in the Himalayas in south Kashmir. The pilgrimage will end on August 15, the day of Shravan Purnima, according to the Hindu calendar.