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Amarnath Yatra: 30,000 soldiers, satellite tracker, bullet-proof bunkers to provide cover

“Intelligence input say terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” says IGP Kashmir

india Updated: Jun 30, 2017 12:22 IST
HT Correspondent
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Sadhus undergo a security check before getting registered for the annual Amarnath Yatra at Ram Mandir base camp in Jammu. The first batch of Amarnath pilgrims left here for the cave shrine in the Kashmir Valley amid extraordinary security arrangements. The 40-day yatra will culminate on August 7 on Raksha Bandhan. There are two routes: the traditional 28.2 km long Pahalgam route in Anantnag district, while the Baltal track in Ganderbal district is a 9.5 km-stretch. (PTI)

The Amarnath Yatra, the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva in Kashmir, began on Wednesday amid intelligent inputs that cautioned of militant attacks on pilgrims and security personnel.

A spike in violence in the valley is already a cause of concern for the Jammu and Kashmir government and central security forces over the 40-day pilgrimage that passes through the volatile Anantnag district in south Kashmir.

In 16 years, over 50 pilgrims have been killed in three terror strikes during the trek to the shrine tucked away at 12,750-ft altitude in the Pir Panjal mountains in the south Kashmir.

Here’s look at the situation as the first batch of over 2280 pilgrims left Jammu for the cave shrine:

Intelligence input

Intelligence reports said the yatra that began amid the “highest ever multi-tier security setup” may be attacked in form of “standoff fire” on pilgrim convoys during the 40-day pilgrimage that will culminate on August 7 on Raksha Bandhan.

“Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” IGP Kashmir Zone Muneer Khan said in a letter, which was sent to the Indian Army, the CRPF, and range DIGs in the state.

“The attack may be in the form of stand-off fire on yatra convoy which they believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation,” the IGP said in the letter that was leaked and being circulated on WhatsApp.

“The input is assessed to be a HUMINT (human intelligence) and it needs further corroboration,” the IGP said in the letter, adding that at this stage the possibility of a sensational attack by a terrorist outfit cannot be ruled out.

Khan later played down the letter, saying there was no need to panic as it was part of the information being shared with agencies to check its authenticity. J-K DGP SP Vaid also said someone spread it on social media to create panic.

Security blanket

The Centre and state governments have pulled out all stops to provide a security cover to over two lakh pilgrims, who have registered for the yatra this year.

Besides Jammu and Kashmir police, 30,000 paramilitary personnel have been deployed along the two routes: the traditional 28.2 km long Pahalgam route in Anantnag district and the 9.5 km Baltal track in Ganderbal district.

The Indian Army has also deployed five battalions in the valley for the yatra. The paramilitary forces include the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).

Thirty-five dog squads of army, J-K police, BSF and CRPF deployed along Pahalgam and Baltal routes, of which 27 on the Pahalgam axis and eight on Baltal stretch.

CCTV cameras, jammers, rollover protection structure, dog squads, bullet-proof bunkers, Quick Reaction Teams, satellite tracking and other security gadgets are being used to maintain vigil in view of increased threat perception.

Previous attacks

August 1, 2000: At least 30 people, including 2 police personnel, were killed and 50 pilgrims and local porters injured in an attack on the base camp at Pahalgam by two unidentified gunmen.

July 21, 2001: An unidentified gunman attacked the Shesh Nag camp killing 12 people, including 6 pilgrims, 2 security personnel and 4 local civilians, and injuring 13.

August 6, 2002: In a pre-dawn attack, two unidentified gunmen struck the camp at Nunwan killing eight people and injuring 30 others.

There have been no attacks on the yatra since 2002.