Srinagar– Security forces have made unprecedented security arrangements for Amarnath yatra as it apprehends a higher threat perception to the pilgrims this year, a senior Army official said here on Saturday.
The Army officer, who did not wish to be identified, said security personnel three to four times more in strength have been deployed around the yatra as there is credible intelligence of a likely militant strike.
The 43-day-long Amarnath Yatra is scheduled to start on June 30 from two routes — the traditional 48-km Nunwan in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam and a 14-km shorter route from Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal — after nearly three year break forced first by the lockdown preceding abrogation of Article 370 and later two year long COVID pandemic.
The heightened security measures also come in the backdrop of a recent spurt in target killings, including those of workers belonging to the minority community.
There is an increased threat perception to the Amarnath yatra this year. We generally receive inputs about militants targeting the yatra every year, but this year, there are more such inputs, the officer said.
He said the administration expects the number of yatris to go up this year especially since the pilgrimage is taking place for the first time in four years — it was cancelled midway in 2019 with the Centre’s revocation of J-K special status, and suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic — and also because of the increased number of tourist arrivals.
The security preparations have also been made keeping these factors in mind, the officer added.
We are expecting an almost two to three times increase in the number of yatris. A lot of preparations have been put into place. The number of security forces personnel deployed on the ground for the smooth conduct of the yatra is three or four times more than the previous years, he said.
Despite the administration’s efforts to ensure a safe and secure yatra we cannot say that we have made it 100 per cent foolproof, the officer said.
Apart from the deployment, drone surveillance and RFID chips will also be part of the three-tier security arrangements for the pilgrims.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Vijay Kumar had on June 14 said that three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, who were killed in recent encounters, were sent from Pakistan to attack the annual Amarnath Yatra.
Of the three slain militants, two were Pakistanis and one was a local, he said.
On July 10, 2017, seven people were killed and 11 others injured when militants attacked a bus carrying Amarnath yatris in Botengo on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
The Yatra is scheduled to start on June 30 and will culminate on August 11.
Search Operations Along IB
Security forces on Saturday carried out a massive search operation along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir to detect cross-border tunnels and prevent any infiltration attempts by militants during the Amarnath Yatra, officials said.
The search operation was jointly carried out by Police, CRPF, and BSF in the forward villages in Samba, Kathua, and Jammu districts, the officials said.
Various intelligence inputs suggest that militants are planning to infiltrate from across the border to disrupt the yatra, Deputy Superintendent of Police (operations), Samba, G R Bhardwaj said.
Bhardwaj, who was leading the joint search operation, said that about 8-km area from Suchetgarh border to Regal was combed by the joint forces with a focus on detecting any possible cross-border tunnel which might have been dug from across the border by militants to infiltrate.
He said the forces searched all unattended areas during the operation, which is part of the unprecedented security arrangements made for the upcoming yatra.
We are alert to the threat and have stepped up area domination patrols, search operations, and night vigils to thwart any attempt by militants to disrupt the yatra, Bhardwaj said, adding that additional checkpoints have also been set up to strengthen the border and highway grid.
Officials said the searches were also carried out in R S Pura sector in Jammu district and Hiranagar sector in Kathua district to keep an eye on any suspicious movement.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.