Amarnath Yatra going to be litmus test for J&K govt
Given the spike in terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and threats issued by various terror outfits, the upcoming annual Amarnath Yatra starting June 30 to the cave shrine at 13,000ft in south Kashmir is going to be a litmus test for the government.
One of the most revered Hindu pilgrimages in India, the yatra is resuming after two years. The pilgrimage also assumes significance as it is going to be the first one after Article 370 was abrogated in 2019.
The back-to-back terror attacks in the form of selective killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-locals in the Valley have set the alarm bells ringing.
Attack on a CISF bus near Sunjuwan military station on April 22; blast near PM’s rally venue at Palli in Samba on April 24; killing of a Kashmiri Pandit employee in Budgam on May 12, suspected attack on a pilgrims’ bus in Katra on May 13, and the grenade attack at a wine shop in Baramulla on May 17 have created a flutter in the security establishments. The increased drone activity and detection of a cross-border tunnel in a Samba village on May 4 also indicate a ‘tough time’ for the security forces.
“While the Centre has decided to deploy at least 15,000 additional security forces personnel in Kashmir in view of the killing of minorities, a total of 400 companies of the central armed police forces will be sent for the upcoming Amarnath Yatra,” said home department officials.
“Though CRPF largely shoulders the responsibility of regulating the pilgrimage, army commandos will be stationed in and around the cave shrine to secure it completely. Other central armed police forces like BSF, ITBP and SSB besides Jammu and Kashmir Police will also be deployed in strength to safeguard the pilgrims,” they added.
To tackle the threat posed by UAVs, the security agencies will deploy anti-drone teams along the routes and base camps in Jammu.
It will be for the first time that each Amarnath yatri would be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) card through which their movement will be tracked and well-being ensured. Every pilgrim would also be insured for ₹5 lakh.
CCTVs and drones will monitor the pilgrimage throughout and all routes will be sanitised before the commencement of yatra each day, said the officials. The Amarnath shrine board has also decided to put in place a daily route-wise pilgrim ceiling up to 10,000, excluding yatris who would travel by helicopters.
The 43-day yatra from June 30 to August 11 will see a record number of about six lakh pilgrims.
This year, security measures are going to be stringent for obvious reasons, said a top police officer. It may be mentioned here that LeT’s offshoot TRF and a now lesser known outfit -- Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Fighters -- have already issued threats ahead of the pilgrimage.
On May 17, Union home minister Amit Shah had reviewed preparations for the yatra and said that “it was the priority of the Modi government that the pilgrims should have hassle-free darshan and they should not face any problems”.
Meanwhile, the top brass of army, police and intelligence agencies on Thursday reviewed the security situation.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said that a security review meeting was chaired by Lt Gen Manjinder Singh, GOC, White Knight Corps, at Nagrota.
The meeting was attended by ADGP Mukesh Singh and senior officials of various intelligence agencies in the region.
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