Amarnath yatra suspended on Friday for second time after heavy rains damage tracks
The Jammu-Srinagar highway in the Ramban district that pilgrim convoys use to reach the valley was blocked on Thursday for several hours. Heavy rains on Friday again slowed down the traffic.Updated: Jun 29, 2018 14:00 IST
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
The pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath from Baltal base camp in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district was suspended on Friday morning, the second time since it started on Thursday, after heavy rains damaged the tracks, officials said.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed and won’t allow the pilgrims unless the track is safe,” Ganderbal’s deputy commissioner Piyush Singla said.
Ganderbal’s superintendent of police tweeted that the track has been damaged due to multiple slides and restoration work was going on.
The pilgrimage has two mountainous routes. One is a traditional and longer route from south Kashmir’s Pahalgam and the other is a shorter but steeper path from Baltal.
There is no official word about the yatra from Pahalgam side in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.
Ananatnag’s deputy commissioner and superintendent of police and Shri Amarnath Shrine Board officials did not respond to calls from the Hindustan Times.
The pilgrimage, which was scheduled to start from early morning on Thursday from Baltal and Pahalgam, was stopped due to the incessant rains since Wednesday evening after it made the treacherous mountain tracks slippery.
Except for a handful of people, the pilgrims were not allowed to trek the 36-km path from Pahalgam because of the rains on Thursday. Some of them were allowed to move ahead on the treacherous trek from Baltal on Thursday afternoon.
A spokesperson of Governor NN Vohra, who is the chairperson of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, said that by Thursday evening, 1,316 people were able to leave from the Baltal route and 60 from the Pahalgam route.
The cave shrine, which is 3,893metres above sea level houses an ice stalagmite that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon and devotees believe the structure symbolises Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. It was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in the 15th century.
The two-month annual pilgrimage for which 2,11,000 people have registered so far this year comes amid a governor’s rule in the state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its coalition with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on June 20.
There has been heightened militant activity even before the pilgrimage started, although a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander assured pilgrim that “you don’t need any security as you are our guests”.
Eight pilgrims, mostly women, were killed after gunmen attacked their bus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag last year.
Hundreds of Kashmiris and over 40,000 security personnel are toiling hard to ensure that the arrangements are in place for the annual Hindu pilgrimage.
The state police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indian Army have put a coordinated security arrangement in place for the pilgrimage. As many as 238 companies of the central security forces will guard the pilgrimage, besides police and army.
First Published: Jun 29, 2018 13:55 IST