With jawans of the Army, CRPF and other security forces taking up positions at strategic places on the 300 km long Jammu-Srinagar Highway, security has been strengthened around Pulwama and Banihal for the 46-day long Amarnath pilgrimage that will begin on Monday.
Top Army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB and J&K Police officers are constantly monitoring the security cover following directions of Home Minister Amit Shah to be fully alert and take all preventive steps to ensure violence-free pilgrimage. Shah camped in Srinagar for two days to review the security scenario.
Pulwama in South Kashmir and Banihal in Jammu division had recently witnessed terrorist attacks at CRPF convoys as a result of which the authorities are not leaving anything to chance, particularly around these places. The convoys carrying the pilgrims shall drive through these areas.
Army and CRPF officers were seen personally driving through the highway to assess the security situation. The CRPF has set up bunkers at short distances and has also positioned bulletproof mobile bunkers to thwart any terrorist attack at the pilgrims moving in convoy under heavy security cover. The pilgrimage will begin on 1 July and conclude on 15 August. The first convoy carrying pilgrims will be flagged off from the base camp at Jammu in the early hours on Monday.
Top officers of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) have deployed additional workforce and machines on the highway to clear the landslides and keep the road open for movement of the convoy of pilgrims. Drones will also be used to keep a tab on the movement of the convoy, sources said.
The nearly 110 km long highway between Pathankot in Punjab and Jammu has also been put under heavy security cover. Community kitchens to provide food and water to pilgrims have come up at several places on the highway.
While reviewing the security situation at a high-level meeting with the top brass of the Army, para-military forces and intelligence agencies, Shah ordered that there should be no laxity in providing the security cover. Senior officers should personally supervise the arrangements, he said.
Security forces should ensure best possible optimum use of the latest technologies and the gadgets not only for the security of the Yatra but also to facilitate the movement of the pilgrims and tourists. He specifically drew the attention of the security forces towards anti-sabotage as well as anti-subversion drills and the access control procedures, Shah said.
He underlined the importance of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for convoy movement and specifically harped on the points that timely dispatch of convoys should be ensured, after the cut-off timings barricades should be erected at suitable locations, and no differentiation should be made between pilgrims and tourists.
Shah ordered that there should be no complacency on the part of the security forces or duty staff at any point of time during the entire pilgrimage period.
Northern Army Commander Lt General Ranbir Singh and the Chinar Corps Commander Lt General KJS Dhillon flew to various formations on both the routes leading to the cave shrine of Amarnath.
The Army Commander also held a key Security Review Meeting which was attended by senior officials of the Army, Police, CRPF and other security agencies. During the meeting, detailed aspects of coordination related to the smooth conduct of Amarnath Yatra were discussed.