The Nunwan Base Camp here has been converted into a fortress ahead of the commencement of the annual Amarnath yatra, which will begin on Thursday, as security for this year’s pilgrimage was heightened to thwart any rerun of last year’s militant attack that left eight pilgrims dead and several injured.
Security forces — mainly police and CRPF personnel — have been deployed in large numbers around the Nunwan Base Camp located at the entry of this buzzing tourist town known as the ‘valley of shepherds’ in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
The first security checkpoint was established and activated near the Langanbal bridge where police personnel check every vehicle entering or leaving Pahalgam, which serves as the base camp for the pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath in the mountainous region of south Kashmir.
Security personnel have been deployed on both sides of the Lidder stream to thwart any attempt of daredevilry by militants. The next security barricade is adjacent to the Nunwan Base Camp where hi-tech gadgetry will be used to maintain strict vigil.
CCTV cameras, metal detectors and X-ray machines have been installed to prevent smuggling in of contraband. Besides, every person crossing into the tourist resort will be frisked. Militants, who have publicly assured of inflicting no harm on the devotees in the past, carried out a deadly attack on a bus last year, killing eight Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag.
“We do not want to leave anything to chance. It was a misfortune that militants succeeded in targeting a bus last year but we are making all out efforts to ensure that it is a smooth sailing this year,” a senior police official said.
Several police, paramilitary and intelligence officers have set up base around Pahalgam to ensure pilgrims are kept out of harm’s way.
“South Kashmir has been on the boil over the past year — both in terms of militancy-related incidents and law and order problems. We have formed a two-pronged strategy to ensure pilgrims are not affected by these kind of incidents,” the official said.
The pilgrims heading to Amarnath — from both Pahalgam and Baltal routes — will have a definite time frame to make it from one base camp to another. A list of “do’s and don’ts” has been issued by the Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board, which manages the annual yatra.
In Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Secretray B V R Subrahmanyam issued a series of instructions to the administration to ensure hassle-free and smooth conduct of the yatra.
These instructions were issued following an extensive tour of the Adviser to the Governor, K Vijay Kumar, and the chief secretary to Baltal and Panjtarni yesterday to review the preparedness and arrangements for the annual yatra.
“Meteorological reports should begin forthwith from today and these would be sent to all concerned,” the chief secretary said.
He also stressed the need to ensure greater communication and coordination between the civil and police administration.
“Food safety is a top priority in the absence of which there can be health issues. Deputy commissioners will ensure food safety officers certify that arrangements are up-to-the-mark and that quality food is available during the yatra period,” he said.