Weeks after the Jammu and Kashmir government lifted restrictions on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, security forces have asked the state administration to “secure/block” the link roads leading to the main highway on the Amarnath Yatra route.
In a letter sent to the Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir), on June 19, the CRPF has asked for 97 of the 193 lateral/link roads, crossings and arterial roads to be “properly secured/blocked” in order to “avoid unauthorised movement movement of civilian vehicles.” The move would effectively close off the link roads connecting areas surrounding the national highway, restricting movement of civilian vehicles while making the way for movement of “yatri convoy”.
DG CRPF Rajiv R Bhatnagar told The Indian Express, “The laterals will be controlled so that no hostile elements can enter the road. This was done last year also but the difference this year is that earlier it was done above the (Jawahar) tunnel and this year it will be done below as well.”
Additionally, all yatra vehicles will be tagged with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) system this year. Last year, the RFID was tested on a pilot basis.
In April this year, the state government led by Governor Satya Pal Malik had ordered banning of civilian traffic from the 370 km highway in the state connecting North and South Kashmir, leading to criticism of the move. The highway movement was restricted, exclusively to be used for movement of military convoys, to two days a week.
The order banning civilian traffic was issued following an IED attack on a CRPF convoy in February along the same highway that claimed the lives of at least 40 personnel. However, these restriction were lifted after voting for the General Elections 2019 concluded in the state.
The letter issued Wednesday by CRPF’s DIG (Ops) A Srinivas also states, “after carrying out the survey of the yatra route from Lasjan bypass to Gagangir, a total of 193 not lateral/link road, crossings/arteries have been found existing, out of which 97 not lateral/link road, crossings/arteries are vulnerable and need to be secured during the movement of yatri convoy.”
The CRPF has requested barricades and signages to be provided along this route, through South Kashmir, in order to block the “vulnerable laterals”.
While officials of the Jammu and Kashmir police have stated that there remains a “general threat of IEDs” during the yatra and that there are “adequate deployment of forces”, additional measures have also been adopted to ensure safety of pilgrims travelling by road to the Amartnath cave.
Close to three lakh yatris travel to the Amarnath cave every year during the approximately 45-day yatra period.
On June 16, the Joint Resistance Leadership said there was no threat to Amarnath Yatris from Kashmiris “as reported by some mischievous media outlets from their cozy studios in New Delhi and these pilgrims are very much safe in the Valley.”