‘Death can come at any place, anytime’: After attack, pilgrims vow to complete Amarnath Yatra

A Central Reserve Police Force officer said the CRPF in tandem with the Indian Army has tightened the security in the region following the attack in Anantnag.

Kashmir Turmoil Updated: Jul 11, 2017 18:48 IST
Navneet Dubey
Navneet Dubey
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Amarnath,Greater Kashmir,Amarnath Yatra 2017
Hindu pilgrims arrive after visiting the Amarnath cave shrine in Pahalgam town of south Kashmir's Anantnag district.(Reuters Photo)

Pilgrims from Gujarat said on Tuesday they will finish their pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine as they have unflinching faith in Shiva and trust the security forces, a day after seven people, including five from the western state, were killed in a terrorist attack on Monday in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.

More than 60 pilgrims, mostly from Gujarat, were returning from Baltal after paying obeisance at the cave shrine dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva when their bus was attacked at Batengoo by terrorists on Monday night.

The pilgrims at the main Bhagwati Nagar Base Camp in Jammu were in a jovial mood and eager for a darshan, or view of the ice stalagmite formation at the holy cave situated in the hills of south Kashmir, at the earliest. Hindus believe the stalagmite represents Shiva’s icon.

Tarun Patel, a resident of Patan in the western state who along with four others is on his first pilgrimage, said he has no fear of the Sunday’s terror attack.

“We are totally upbeat with the thoughts of paying obeisance at the holy cave of Lord Shiva. The thought of returning to our home and leaving the pilgrimage mid-way never struck even once. The government has made elaborate security arrangements and there is nothing to worry about. Moreover, we have complete faith in Lord Shiva,” the 52-year-old Patel said.

His views were shared by his friend Gautam Bhrambhat.

“With the fear of death, we would not return. Death can come at any place and any given time as per destiny. If it (death) comes during the yatra, so be it,” Bhrambhat said.

Before Monday’s attack, over 50 pilgrims died in three terror strikes in the last 16 years during the trek to the shrine tucked away at 12,750-ft altitude in the Pir Panjal mountains in the south Kashmir.

Twenty-six-year-old Nirmal Patel from Gujarat’s Vadodara is on his third pilgrimage to the shrine. This time, he is undertaking the pilgrimage along with 60 others.

“I am not scared at all. Even last year I paid obeisance at the holy cave on July 10, two days after the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani. Due to security reasons, our vehicle had to halt for a night at Ramban. We did not care at that time when the situation was much tense, this time the security agencies have made far better arrangements; we do not have any fear,” Patel said.

A fresh batch of 3289 Amarnath pilgrims left in a convoy of 105 vehicles earlier on Tuesday from the Yatri Niwas base for the cave shrine amid tight security in the region.

A Central Reserve Police Force officer said the CRPF in tandem with the Indian Army has tightened the security in the region following the attack and that the convoy is being escorted by armed commandos from the paramilitary force.

“Though the security arrangements are adequate, we revisit the security grid whenever such incidents happen. An alert has already been issued and security has been heightened at the Yatri Niwas Base camp in Jammu and all along the 294-km long Jammu-Srinagar national highway,” the officer said.

He added that the pilgrims were allowed to leave from Jammu only after a nod by the road opening parties of CRPF and army that guard the highway.

Faith has also drawn four women from Ahmedabad to perform the pilgrimage all by themselves. In Sunday’s attack, five women were among those killed.

“We are eagerly waiting to have darshans of ‘Bhole Baba’, besides that nothing else is in our minds. Moreover, death can come to anybody; we have come here, leaving our families behind. We are not bothered that yesterday’s incident, in which most of the killed were women. Lord Shiva will take care of us,” Nita, 54, said.

Her friend, Sangeeta, however, wanted a befitting reply to the terrorists who had taken innocent lives.

“Security forces should identify those terrorists and give them a hard-hitting reply. I would like to ask Pakistan, as on whose behest such attacks are carried out, to shun the path of violence and resort to peace,” she added.

Nirmal Modi, who along with his family of four is on his first journey, is also undeterred by the terrorist attack.

“We are not scared, nor did the idea to cancel the trip came to our mind. Moreover, an accident can happen anywhere, also we have full confidence in our security forces. If we have reached Jammu after travelling thousands of miles, now nothing can deter us from completing our remaining pilgrimage,” Modi, a resident of Surat, said.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 18:46 IST