Amarnath yatra on hold due to rains in Kashmir, pilgrims asked to stay in tents

Officials announce on loudspeakers at Baltal camp requesting the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to not queue up outside the gate as they won’t be allowed to move ahead today due to slippery tracks.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2018 11:04 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Baltal
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The first batch of two-month long Amarnath Yatra pilgrims was escorted in a convoy from the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu for the Kashmir Valley amid three-tier security on Wednesday. (Nitin Kanotra/HT )

Amarnath pilgrimmage was put on hold in Kashmir on Thursday morning owing to incessant rains much to the disappointment of yatris who had gathered since Wednesday.

Around 3,000 yatris, who had arrived at yatra base camps in central Kashmir’s Baltal and south Kashmir’s Pahalgam from Jammu, have been asked to stay put in their tents.

“All the yatris are requested not to queue up outside the gate. They won’t be allowed to move ahead today as the track has become slippery due to rains, officials announced on loudspeakers at Baltal camp.

An official manning joint control room at Pahalgam said the yatra from that side had been put on hold till rains stopped and tracks became walkable.

Yatris trek 36 kms up to the treacherous mountainous paths to the cave shrine situated at a height of 12,775 feet from Pahalgam base camp, while from Baltal side, the route is shorter but vertical and yatris have to trek for just 14 km.

Monika Bhansal, along with her son and daughter, has been waiting outside the gate errected by security forces at Baltal since 4am amid the rains.

“We have come here just for the yatra. We have a return flight which is booked for June 30. I pray that weather improves and we are able to perform darshan,” she said.

Bhushan Chand, in his 30s, has travelled from Himachal Pradesh on his bike for the yatra.

“I will perform the pilgrimmage come what may. Rains would not stop me but the police are not allowing me to move ahead. Dil mein icha ho to kuch bhi mumkin ha,” he said.

The annual Amarnath pilgrimage through J&K
The yatra this year, took off amid political turmoil in the state and heightened security

Rains started lashing the two base camps since Wednesday when yatris started trickling in at the two sites.

Umang Narula, chief executive officer of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board which is managing the yatra, said the first batch of 2995 yatris left in 113 vehicles in two separate convoys for Baltal and Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camps to ease the movement of traffic. They reached their destinations late on Wednesday evening.

Even before the convoys reached Kashmir, hundreds of yatris had already arrived at the base camps.

Sukhwinder Singh arrived here along with his wife, teenagers son and daughter in two buses, which carried 42 pilgrims from Amritsar. They had already visited Dal Lake and other tourist spots before dropping in at the base camp.

“It has been an amazing journey. We did not face any hindrances even though we have heard many bad things in media. People here are vert sweet,” he said.

Along with over 40,000 security personnel, hundreds of Kashmiris are toiling hard to ensure that the arrangements are in place for the annual Hindu pilgrimage.

ITBP constables Rinku Sharma, 25, and Subhey Singh, 26, who stand guard at the entrance of 14-km slanting mountain track, performed their yatra before people started coming.

“We went to the cave shrine in groups as we came here 20 days back for putting in place security arrangements. Now we will be ensuring the safety at the entrance,” they said.

The two-month long pilgrimage this year comes amid governor’s rule in the state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its coalition with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on June 20. There has been heightened militant activity even before the commencement of the Yatra, although a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander assured that “pilgrims need not to worry”.

For the past one week, governor NN Vohra, Army chief General Bipin Rawat and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman have reviewed security scenario multiple times and visited the tracks of the Amarnath Yatra.

A coordinated security system by police, CRPF and army has been put in place for the pilgrimage. As many as 238 companies of the central security forces will guard the pilgrimage, besides police and army.

While the CRPF will ensure sanitisation of routes, road opening parties and will accompany the yatris from Jammu to the base camps along with police, army has been given the responsibility of corridor protection and securing higher reaches. The vehicles have been radio tagged and the CCTV cameras have been installed along the routes.

CRPF inspector general, Ravideep Sahi, said they had put in place a cordinated security plan.

Last year, eight pilgrims were killed after gunmen attacked their bus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 08:02 IST