The first batch of pilgrims entered Kashmir valley on Tuesday to visit the Amarnath cave shrine in the mountains of South Kashmir beginning the annual Yatra. More than 250,000 pilgrims have registered for the Yatra and the number is expected to increase.
Around 10,000 police and CRPF personnel are manning the cave shrine, routes and camps apart from a significant number of army and BSF personnel to ensure that the 45 day pilgrimage remain incident free.
After being flagged off from Jammu by tourism minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, the first batch of 2,096 pilgrims crossed the Jawarhar Tunnel, gateway into Kashmir, at around 4:30 pm, said R.K Goyal, chief executive officer of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board.
However one of the Pilgrims died at Baltal base camp due to heart attack, Goyal informed.
Pilgrims after reaching the traditional Pahalgam base camp and North Kashmir’s Baltal camp in the evening would be moving towards the cave on Wednesday morning.
Despite unrest in Kashmir valley last year resulting in the death of 110 civilians, nearly half-a-million pilgrims visited the shrine which apart from security arrangement is credited to the hospitability and cooperation of locals.
Authorities have made elaborate security arrangement this year as well.
“Security arrangements are complete right from Jammu camps, to the routes leading to the cave, the Baltal and Pahalgam base camps in Kashmir, the helipad and the cave shrine,” said CRPF Spokesman Prabhakar Tripathi. Around 5000 CRPF personnel have been specially deployed for the Yatra security with an equal number of police personnel.
“Modern and sophisticated security gadgets have been installed at various places all along the Yatra route,” he informed.
The locals along the route to the shrine have established tea stalls, dhabas and fruit shops for the pilgrims. Hundreds of pony owners at Baltal are eagerly looking forward to the pilgrimage.The Yatra will conclude on Aug 13, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.