Updated: June 30, 2022 10:13:19 am
The annual Amarnath pilgrimage is all set to start on Thursday under an unprecedented multi-layer security cover.
Worried by the inputs of a possible militant attack, the government has deployed over 80,000 security personnel to secure the twin routes leading to the Himalayan cave shrine.
While unmanned aerial vehicles have been put in service for surveillance of the pilgrimage routes, the pilgrims have been tagged with RFID location chips.
“By far, this is the largest security arrangement we have made for the yatra this year. Not just the number of personnel has been increased but technology is also being used. We have placed drones for aerial surveillance and also tagged the pilgrims with RFID to keep track of them,” said a senior paramilitary officer. “The heightened security apparatus has been necessitated by the higher threat perception this year.”
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The first batch of Amarnath pilgrims left Jammu on Wednesday morning after being flagged off by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. The pilgrims would be allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine on Thursday, thus marking the beginning of the 45-day yatra.
Police sources say that the intelligence agencies have warned of a “high possibility” of a militant attack on the yatra this year. “If the intelligence inputs are any indicator, it seems the militants are adamant to carry out an attack,” said a senior police officer. “A multi-layer security system has been put in place. It is not easy for the militants to break the security cordon but we cannot take any chances.”
Police sources say they are particularly worried about the use of magnetic bombs by the militants. “The magnetic bombs are a real threat,” said the police officer. “It is almost impossible to keep track of every vehicle, especially in highly congested areas like Srinagar city.”
This is the first Amarnath yatra since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019. While the pilgrimage was cut short in 2019, it could not be conducted in the subsequent two years because of the pandemic.
The government has said it is expecting one of the biggest Amarnath yatras this year as the number of pilgrims is likely to cross 6 lakh.
Besides the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army, and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security Force (BSF) and other central paramilitary forces have also been deployed to secure the Amarnath routes.
The cave shrine deep in the Himalayas is accessible through two routes – Pahalgam and Sonamarg. While pilgrims visiting the shrine through Pahalgam have to cross though two south Kashmir districts of Kulgam and Anantnag, the pilgrims visiting through Sonamarg will have to cover Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Bandipore and Ganderbal districts, making it a huge security exercise.
As a precautionary measure, the government has decided not to allow the tourists beyond Pahalgam and into Betab valley in south Kashmir. Media will also not be allowed beyond the base camps of Baltal in Sonamarg and Nunwan in Pahalgam.
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