In an unprecedented move, the Governor’s administration in Jammu and Kashmir Friday suspended the annual 2019 Amarnath Yatra ahead of time and asked tourists in the state to leave immediately. The government has cited intelligence inputs of terror threats as the reason behind restricting the pilgrimage nearly a fortnight ahead of its scheduled termination.
An order issued Friday by Principal Secretary Home, Shaleen Kabra advised the tourists and Amarnath yatris in the state to “curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible”.
Government sources told The Indian Express that the security threat to the yatra is “significantly high” and despite the extensive preparations and the heavy troop deployment, the yatra is being curtailed after “careful consideration”.
As per official figures, this year, within a month of the yatra commencing, approximately 3.40 lakh yatris have already visited the holy cave.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to assert that such government orders will not diminish the atmosphere of fear in the state. “Although this unprecedented order would seem to suggest a genuine fear of a massive terror strike directed at Amarnath ji yatris or/and tourists this will do nothing to dampen the sense of fear & foreboding that prevails in the valley at the moment,” he said on Twitter.
Earlier, addressing a joint press conference, Chinar Corps Commander Lt General K J S Dhillon said that in the last three to four days, the Army has received specific reports of Pakistan terrorists plotting to carry out an attack on the ongoing Amarnath Yatra. He added that the Army has reasons to believe that Pakistan and its Army are involved in terrorism in Kashmir, and were trying to disrupt peace in the Valley.
The on-spot registration of pilgrims at Jammu has been stopped after the government advisory. “Though we have not received any formal orders in this connection, we have stopped on spot registration of Amarnath pilgrims till further orders,” said a senior officer who wished not to be named.
Pointing out that they usually make on the spot registration of 1000-1200 pilgrims daily, an official pointed out that Amarnath yatra was already suspended till August 4 in view of inclement weather. “Now, in view of the fresh advisory from the government following intelligence inputs over terror threats, we will be asking the Yatris camping here to return home as the yatra is almost over,” he added.
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The J&K Policy Planning Group of the Congress Party met during day under the chairmanship of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and expressed “deep concerns over the continuous reports emanating from both the Home ministry and the state government which were creating an atmosphere of panic and apprehension about the intentions of the Govt.” In a statement, the group said that the massive build-up of security forces, the curtailment of the Amarnath yatra and the unprecedented advisories being issued to the tourists, yatris and other civilians, are all creating an atmosphere of heightened insecurity and fear. It urged the government not to take any decision which would precipitate a deep crisis.