The first batch of 2234 enthusiastic pilgrims left for South Kashmir’s Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath early morning on Sunday amidst tight security from the base camp at Jammu.
This marked the beginning of the 46-day long pilgrimage that would conclude on 15 August at the shrine situated at 12,756 ft above sea level. The Amarnath shrine houses a naturally formed ice lingam that symbolises Lord Shiva.
Governor’s advisor K K Sharma flagged off the first convoy of 93 vehicles including three motorcycles, carrying the pilgrims. He said that all necessary arrangements are in place to ensure a peaceful and smooth pilgrimage.
The batch of pilgrims will further trek towards the cave shrine on Monday from the two routes, Pahalgam (36 km) and Baltal (14 km) when the pilgrimage officially begins.
About 1.50 lakh pilgrims have so far registered for undertaking the pilgrimage. As many as 2, 85, 006 pilgrims had paid obeisance at the cave shrine last year. Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the pilgrims throughout the 300 km long Jammu-Srinagar Highway and a special motorcycle squad of CRPF personnel with cameras fixed on the helmet accompanied the convoy.
Police have issued cut off timing for the pilgrims moving to Kashmir along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and said no RFID tagged yatra or tourist vehicles would be allowed to proceed after the cut off timing. They have to cross Nagrota by 7 am, Udhampur by 9 am, Ramban by 11.30 am, and Jawahar Tunnel by 2 pm.
The CRPF has set up 24×7 toll-free phone number 14411 for the assistance of the pilgrims.
National Conference provincial president Devender Singh Rana and BJP MLC Vikram Randhawa also came to the base camp to see off the pilgrims. Senior officers of police and civil administration were also present on the occasion.
“We welcome the pilgrims on behalf of National Conference and the people of the state. We have always treated the pilgrims as our honoured guests and the whole Jammu and Kashmir is together for the success of the yatra,” Rana said.
Meanwhile, J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh on Saturday reviewed security at the base camps of Baltal, Manigam and the starting point at Dumail in Kashmir.
More than 30,000 personnel of the Army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB, J&K Police and intelligence agencies are deployed for security of pilgrims. Besides, mountain rescue teams and also men of NDRF and SDRF are deployed for making the pilgrimage safe.
The DGP was accompanied by IGP Kashmir SP Pani during his visit. He reviewed the security and communication arrangements on the yatra route and the helipad. The DGP took stock of the access control at these places and held a meeting with the officers at the Joint Police Control Room at Baltal.
During his meeting with the police and other security forces officers, the DGP stressed for better coordination among all the agencies for the smooth conduct of the yatra. He said that strict compliance of the directions should be ensured to plug any loophole.
Addressing the officers, Dilbag Singh said that strict adherence of timing should be ensured for regulating the yatra.