Amarnath Yatra: Amid tight security, first batch of pilgrims reach Baltal
Amid tight security first batch of yatris reached Baltal on Wednesday, one of the base camps for the Amarnath Yatra, as the pilgrims will have a night halt at the camp. On Thursday morning they will be leaving for the holy cave.
Right from Srinagar to the Baltal base camp, high-level security arrangements were in place and checking of civilians and other vehicles was being done at many places. On the main highway leading to Baltal, security personnel were not allowing any vehicle to stop. At sensitive spots, bulletproof bunker vehicles were keeping vigil on the yatra route.
Though most of the pilgrims reached the base camp in a convoy of vehicles that were heavily guarded, many yatris came in taxis under security escorts. At several places, documents were checked thoroughly.
Every year the annual Amarnath yatra is taken from two routes via Baltal in Ganderbal and Pahalgam in Anantnag district.
“All the yatris will have a night halt at makeshift tents in the base camp and tomorrow in the early hours they will leave for the holy cave which is an uphill trek of 14 km from the base camp and the first batch of yatris is expecting to have darshan at the cave in the afternoon. Usually, it takes five to eight hours of trekking to reach the cave via Baltal as the trek passes through lush green forests and streams,” said an officer deployed at the base camp.
The occasional cool breeze blowing through the base camp gave relief to the pilgrims after a hectic journey. Some pilgrims were busy chanting hymns.
Most of the pilgrims who had come from different parts of the country looked ecstatic. After two years of the pandemic, this year the annual Amarnath Yatra is being held. “I have been coming for the yatra for the last 25 years. I couldn’t undertake this yatra for two years due to Covid but now I am eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be able to perform darshan at the holy cave tomorrow,” said Prasad Thakur who had come from Mumbai along with his brother-in-law Vibhav Sikar. “There is a tight security arrangement this time. We left Srinagar camp in the morning and were stopped at more than half a dozen places for checking,” he said.
Apart from local police, the CRPF, SSB and the Army has been deployed at various places. On the national highway at several places, big billboards were erected by the forces and different departments for welcoming the yatris. NGOs have put up langars on the yatra route.
Officials privy to details said this year around 50,000 security force personnel have been deployed for the smooth conduct of the yatra. And due to apprehensions of militant threats, foolproof security arrangements with the help of the latest gadgets are in place for the safety of yatris.
Rajesh Kandu and his friend Pawan Khatri, pilgrims from Delhi, reached the base camp in the afternoon. They said for this pilgrimage they are ready to face any hardship. “Hopefully, we will be having darshan at the coly cave in the morning. This time stricter security arrangements are in place. Though we faced problems, for darshan we are ready to face them,” said Kandu.
Like previous years, this time also locals have been on the forefront in arranging tents, ponies or running small kiosks to help yatris from various states at the base camp. “I have pitched tents for yatris and will remain here till the yatra ends. Today, I have five pilgrims who are staying in my tent. I charge them a meagre amount and try to make their stay safe,” said Abdul Ahad from neighbouring Kangan. Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the yatris.
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