Kashmir valley’s north-eastern base camp for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage at Baltal remained tense on Tuesday following an accidental fire, which left four people dead, and a scuffle between an army soldier and policeman in a separate incident.
Four people, who served at a langar (stall offering free meals) at Baltal camp, 100 km away from Srinagar, were killed around 4.15 am at Dhumail, just a few metres away from the base camp.
“There was leakage from a LPG cylinder when breakfast was being cooked for pilgrims. The cylinder burst left four people dead,” said Srinagar-based spokesman of zonal police headquarters.
The fire, which broke out at the kitchen belonging to Shiv Shakti Seva Dal of Punjab, left three others injured. “The injured are being treated and are stated to be stable. The fire was brought under control,” the spokesperson said.
The deceased have been identified as Gurdeep Singh, a resident of Mansar, Punjab, Yadander Singh, a resident of Batinda, Punjab, Sandeep, a resident of Mansar, Punjab and Babu Singh, a resident of Batinda, Punjab.
Three injured have been identified as Manjeet Singh and Jasbir Singh, both residents of Bathinda, and Harpaul Singh, a resident of Mansar in Punjab.
The incident has left the area in shock. However, the pilgrimage continues as per the schedule.
In a separate incident at Baltal, a police officer was allegedly thrashed by a group of army personnel. According to police sources, assistant sub-inspector Nazir Ahmad Wani, manning a drop gate at the base camp, on Monday was thrashed allegedly by soldiers when he asked for identification proof from an army officer in civvies (civilian clothes).
The police officer alleged the army officer was trying to cross the barrier with others without having mandatory registration cards, issued by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
A complaint has been registered with a local police station in the incident.
Srinagar-based defence spokesman has said the army “will look into the allegations”.
Baltal witnessed tense day on Friday following clashes between locals and non-local service providers. More than 700 tents belonging to locals were set afire in security forces’ action against protesters.
Meanwhile, two officers --- Dushan Kumar, senior superintendent of police 9th battalion of the JK armed, and SS Rawat, commandant CRPF’s 54 battalion --- were removed following clashes that left hundreds of tents destroyed in allegedly targeted arson.