Over 4,400 pilgrims on Saturday left the winter capital for the twin base camps of 3,888 metre high Amarnath cave shrine of Lord Shiva in south Kashmir Himalayas, amid tight security. The yatra was suspended from Jammu base camp after multiple landslides triggered by heavy rains blocked the Jammu-Srinagar national highway yesterday.
Over 15,000 pilgrims have paid obeisance to the Ice Lingam of Lord shrine at Amarnath in South Kashmir hills. Amid chanting of “Jai Bholay Nath” and “Bum Bum Bholay”, the pilgrims comprising 3,298 males, 986 females and 193 sages and transgenders left in a convoy of 142 vehicles for Amarnath this morning and were escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a police officer said.
With today’s batch, 9,238 pilgrims and sadhus have left Jammu for Amarnath since the yatra began from Jammu on June 28. Today’s was the third batch of pilgrims. The annual yatra in Kashmir had begun amid terror threats, according to an Intelligence warning, prompting the authorities to mobilise the “highest level” of security measures, including satellite tracking system.
The Intelligence reports had claimed that militants were planning to target 100 policemen and as many pilgrims participating in the yatra. “The Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag revealed that terrorists had been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” said a letter by Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) Muneer Khan to the Army, CRPF, and range DIGs in the state last week.
“The input is assessed to be a HUMINT (human intelligence) and needs further corroboration,” the IGP had said in the letter, adding the possibility of a sensational attack by a terrorist outfit could not be ruled out. “The attack may be in the form of stand-off fire on the yatra convoy which the militants believe would result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation,” the IGP had said in the letter which is being circulated on WhatsApp.
The government has mobilised a heavy security blanket of over 35,000 to 40,000 troops including the police, Army, BSF and CRPF as part of the multi-tier security for the pilgrimage.
In addition to the existing strength of the CRPF in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre has provided over 250 companies (25,000 personnel) of paramilitary forces to the state government.
The BSF has deployed over 2,000 troops for the yatra, while the Army has provided 5 battalions (about 5,000 personnel) and additional 54 companies (5,400 personnel) of the police have also been mobilised.
The yatra will be eight days shorter this year against last year’s 48 days and conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 7. Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine stands at 3,888 metres, 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal.