Amarnath yatra’s 15-year terror-free run comes to an end

india Updated: Jul 12, 2017 07:53 IST

Security personnel frisking the yatris and the locals before they head towards the holy cave shrine following the militant attack on a bus at Nuwun base Camp in South Kashmir on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

The attack on Amarnath devotees that killed seven on Monday, ended a 15-year-long terror-free run. The previous big attack on pilgrims in August 2000 at the Pahalgam base-camp had claimed thirty lives.

The sacred journey to the Amarnath cave – first discovered by a Muslim shepherd – binds Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims, culturally and financially. The Valley’s locals provide all the logistics: food stalls, porters and ponies.

The yatra has been in the eye of terror organisations since 1989, when the gun first surfaced in the Valley and has been attacked on several occasions by what the security forces call ‘foreign terrorists’.

The attack in 2000 was the biggest against the yatris in which two armed terrorists managed to penetrate the security perimeter and enter the Pahalgam base camp, guarded by the CRPF and the local police. Pilgrims also came under attack in 2001 and 2002.

A detailed investigation and post mortem reports of the 30, who died at the Pahalgam camp in 2000, revealed that at least 20 pilgrims had been killed by weapons fired by the CRPF. The pilgrims were caught in the cross firing between the terrorists and the security forces.

Eight years later, violent protests rocked the Valley — leading to unprecedented tension between the regions of Jammu and Kashmir – after forest land was transferred to the government-controlled Amarnath Shrine Board. Despite protests leading to a long period of strife and shutdowns, not a single pilgrim was injured or killed.

The yatra has continued undisturbed through repeated cycles of violence, including the unrest in 2010 and the uprising last year, after Burhan Wani’s death.

The administration was extremely concerned after stone pelters took to the streets for over four months in 2016 but the yatra concluded without any untoward incident.

Monday’s attack came at a time when security was at its highest and despite intelligence alerts. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh has said security lapses will be probed.

The death of seven yatris has heightened fears in a communally-charged state where the PDP and the BJP are in alliance. The yatra, however, has not been affected and in an encouraging sign, a fresh batch of over 3,000 pilgrims began the arduous journey to the cave, one day after the terror attack.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 22:35 IST