Yatris Converge At Jammu For Onward March To Kashmir

JAMMU– Chants of “Bam Bam Bhole” and “Jai Barfani Baba ki” rented the air as hundreds of enthusiastic pilgrims unperturbed by the looming militant threat arrived at the Bhagwati Nagar base camp here amid tight security on Tuesday to set out on a journey to cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas on Wednesday.

The devotees said their unflinching faith in Lord Shiva and the security forces has encouraged them to be part of the annual Amarnath Yatra that is being organised this year after a gap of two years on account of the Covid pandemic. The first batch of pilgrims will leave the Jammu base camp on Wednesday, officials said. Multi-tier security has been put in place in and around the base camp, lodging centres, and registration and token centres amid deployment of over 5,000 security personnel in Jammu city, the officials said.

”Na chinta na bhay, Baba Amarnath ji kee jai (Neither worry nor fear, as Baba Amarnath Ji with us),” said Vinay Kumar, who was part of 12-member group from Lucknow arrived here for his onward journey to cave shrine of Amarnath in the first batch on Wednesday.

Lauding the authorities for the “best possible arrangements”, Kumar, said, “We have full faith in Lord Shiva and our security forces”.

The group members have completed their registration and got tokens from Vaishnavi Dham near railway station for their journey to cave shrine in the first batch.

”Facilities are very good and the registration process is also smooth. We are very happy with the arrangements,” Kumar said.

A Bengaluru resident, Upmita, who is here with seven other members of her family, said their fear disappeared soon after reaching the base camp.

Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) is pulling out all the stops to ensure smooth pilgrimage, scheduled to begin on June 30from Kashmir, to the holy cave shrine housing the naturally formed ice-lingam in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Over 3,000 pilgrims have arrived in Jammu and have been housed in base camp and various lodging centres, the officials said, adding that about 400 ‘sadhus’ have also arrived in Ram Mandir camp for the yatra.

The first batch of pilgrims, including sadhus, will leave for the twin base camps of Kashmir a day ahead of the official commencement of the yatra which will culminate, according to tradition, on the day of ‘Raksha Bandhan’ festival on August 11.

The yatra will commence on June 30 from twin routes – traditional 48-km Nunwan in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam and 14-km shorter Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal.

The scene in and around the base camp, lodging centres, registration and token counters was upbeat on Tuesday.

“We have been paying obeisance at the cave shrine regularly for the past 15 years. This year too, I am going to seek peace and prosperity for the mankind,” said Kartikeswar Ram, who hails from South India.

“Brotherhood and communal harmony need to be maintained at all costs to make this earth a better place to live in. This yatra is famous for communal harmony,” he said.

On Monday, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha reviewed arrangements for Amarnath Yatra by undertaking a visit to basecamp here and said the security forces are alert to ensure a smooth pilgrimage.

Sinha also said that people of the Union territory are enthusiastic to welcome the visiting pilgrims.

A senior police officer said that there was no need for the pilgrims to worry and people were welcome to join the pilgrimage. “We are fully prepared for the task. We will ensure the safety of the pilgrims,” he said.

Around three lakh pilgrims have registered so far for the annual Amarnath Yatra, the officials said.

The government, this year, has introduced a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system for pilgrims to track their movement en-route to ensure their well-being.

”Adequate security has been put in place for the base camps and lodging places in the Jammu city. Security is a major challenge,” Jammu Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Chandan Kohli said.

As many as 5,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Jammu city as part of the multi-tier security arrangement for the Amarnath Yatra, he said.

He said that security measures have also been put in place around five registration centres, three token centres, and 32 lodging centres. Pointing to major challenges, he said there are new security threats of sticky bombs, hybrid militants and IEDs dropped by drones.

The SSP said the security set-up has been drawn for convoys of Amarnath vehicles and area domination measures along the road through which yatra convoys will pass. Quick Response Teams (QRTs) have also been put in place, he said. Over 3.42 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance at the shrine, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, from July 1 to August 1, 2019 before the government cancelled the yatra midway ahead of abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories (on August 5, 2019).

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