Amidst unprecedented security, the first batch of pilgrims bound for the Amarnath cave shrine on the mountains of Kashmir will depart at 4 am on Wednesday from the Yatri Nivas Base Camp at Bhagwati Nagar here. Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha will flag off the heavily escorted convoy of vehicles carrying the pilgrims for the yatra that will begin from Kashmir’s two base camps at Pahalgam and Baltal on 30 June.
The 43-day pilgrimage is being held after a gap of two years under the new challenge of sticky bombs and drone attacks by Pakistan-backed terrorists. The Army, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB, CISF, J&K Police and state and Central intelligence agencies are on their toes to thwart any misadventure from the miscreants.
Because of high threat perception, strong security arrangements have been made all along the 300 km stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar highway with the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel deployed on the route. Area domination has also been done on nearly 100 km highway entering J&K from Punjab at Lakhanpur to Jammu.
CAPF personnel have also been deployed in strength on the two yatra routes, 48 km traditional Pahalgam route in south Kashmir’s Anantnag and the 14 kms Baltal route from the Ganderbal district, from where the pilgrims have the option to either trek or take a helicopter flight to the cave shrine.
Road Opening Parties (ROPs) of the Army and CAPFs will thoroughly scan the road routes every morning before the convoy carrying the pilgrims is allowed to proceed from Jammu. Over 130 sniffer dogs have also been deployed to track down any IED or explosive planted on the highways. The convoys will be escorted by security vehicles and drones will keep their track at vulnerable spots.
Authorities have made Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) compulsory for real-time tracking and monitoring of pilgrims and vehicles.
Meanwhile, IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar took stock of security arrangements this morning by visiting the Holy Cave and the Yatri Camp at Panjtarni. He held a security review meeting with officers from the Army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, JKP, NDRF and civil administration. Later on, the IGP physically inspected the deployment of forces on the ground and instructed them on better coordination and joint efforts to achieve incident-free and smooth yatra.
He also chaired the final security review meeting in South Kashmir’s Anantnag. GOC Victor Force of Army, IG CRPF, DIGs of BSF, ITBP, CRPF and JKP, besides South Kashmir district SSPs and COs, attended the meeting. Real threats and counter-measures being taken by police and security forces were reviewed.
Langar committees have geared up to facilitate Shri Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Kathua, the Samba, Jammu, Udhampur, Ramban, Shopian, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Srinagar districts through which they will cross.
DRDO hospitals are ready on both base camps for the Amarnath Yatris. “We have made arrangements for the pilgrims to stay. Langar, medical, communication and sanitation facilities for the pilgrims have been done,” said Nitishwar Kumar, CEO, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir PK Pole, on Tuesday, said that Amarnath Yatra is not mere a pilgrimage, but a major economic push for J&K. He said this year, the administration is expecting 6 to 8 lakh pilgrims.