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Tight security ahead of Amarnath yatra

Around 300,000 people are expected to undertake the Amarnath yatra that begins on Sunday amid tight security.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 12:19 IST

Around 300,000 people are expected to perform the annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath that begins on Sunday amid tight security arrangements by the Jammu and Kashmir Government.

This year's Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) will be held for an extended period of two months—June 11 to Aug 9. Though only around 2,000 pilgrims have registered their names for the yatra so far, authorities expect the final number to touch 300,000.

To guard pilgrims, an elaborate three-tier security system has been planned that will be handled jointly by the army, paramilitary forces and the local police.

"In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on tourists in the valley, we have taken extra precautions. We will have additional deployment of paramilitary forces and the police," Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) SM Sahai told IANS.

"I appeal to the yatris (pilgrims) to be disciplined so as to make it easier for the security forces to work in a coordinated manner," he said.

Sahai also said that yatra base camps had been organised en route to the shrine both on the south Kashmir Pahalgam route and the north Kashmir Baltal route.

The 45-km trek from Pahalgam passes through some of the most dangerous mountain routes and the sheer vastness of wilderness makes security a Herculean task for the forces.

While pilgrims can make a visit to the shrine within one day using the north Kashmir Baltal route, they prefer to take the Pahalgam route, which takes four days.

At the Baltal base camp—which is located on the foothills of the Zojilla Pass that opens on the other side into the Ladakh region of Kashmir—a bustling bazaar of shopkeepers, chai wallahs (tea stalls), tent providers and pony wallahs has already come up, giving the entire area the semblance of a large tourist haunt.

According to Hindu mythology, the stalagmite inside the 3,880-metre-high cave resembles the lingam, or phallus, of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity.

First Published: Jun 10, 2006 12:02 IST