With only 12 days left for the Amarnath pilgrimage to begin, the intensified targeting of security forces by terrorists in South Kashmir is a worrisome factor.
This part of Kashmir, including the Anantnag, Shopian, and Pulwama districts, is the hub of the pilgrimage as the convoys carrying the pilgrims during the 46-day long yatra will pass through these areas. One of the two base camps will be in the Pahalgam area of Anantnag.
Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to reach Srinagar on 30 June to pay obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine and also review the security arrangements a day before the pilgrimage begins on 1 July.
Four soldiers, including a Major of the Army, have lost their lives in terror attacks and encounters since Monday. Three terrorists have also been eliminated in these encounters.
Terrorists on Monday evening tossed a grenade at a CRPF camp in Tral but no damage was caused. Several grenade attacks have been reported in the past few days.
In a 14 February type IED attack on a CRPF convoy, terrorists on Monday evening targeted an Army team that was patrolling the Arihal area of Pulwama, killing two soldiers and injuring seven.
Five CRPF personnel and an Inspector of the J&K Police were killed last week when terrorists attacked a check post on the vital Amarnath pilgrimage route in Anantnag.
The terror attacks have increased following Saturday’s statement of the separatists who had said that Kashmir was safe for the Amarnath pilgrims and the Kashmiris will offer them the traditional hospitality.
These attacks indicate that the terrorists were trying to scare the pilgrims and also convey that they would not accept the command of the separatists.
In view of the heightened terror incidents, the authorities have taken steps to strengthen security arrangements on the Pahalgam and Baltal routes of the pilgrimage.
A joint team of Army and police on Tuesday seized a cache of arms and ammunition in the Poonch district. Reports said that six pistols and one AK-assault rifle were seized in the Gursai nullah in the Mendhar town just near the Line of Control (LOC). Another cache of arms and ammunition was seized a few days ago.
As a precautionary measure, the authorities are improving the Mughal Road as an alternate route for the pilgrimage. The road takes off for the Shopian district of South Kashmir from Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu.
Jammu’s divisional commissioner, Sanjeev Verma, said that elaborate security and other arrangements have been made at the Yatri Niwas here from where the convoy of pilgrims will leave for Kashmir every morning.
Verma said this year, Mobile Bio-Toilets are being installed en route Jammu to Banihal on the Jammu-Srinagar highway and Jammu to Pir Ki Gali on the Mughal Road at a distance of 30 km each for ensuring hassle-free movement of pilgrims from both the routes. Though, Mughal Road shall be used as an alternate route. There shall be ample langars (free food stalls) all along the route as per past practice.
All vehicles of the pilgrims shall be tagged to help the authorities trace them in case of any difficulty or deviation from their scheduled route. This has been done to ensure the safety of the passengers.
Umang Narula, Chief Executive Officer, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), reviewed the status of snow clearance on the pilgrimage routes and inspected the ongoing arrangements for Shri Amarnathji Yatra. He also reviewed arrangements at Chandanwari.