Amarnath Yatra Amid Tight Security30 June 2010
Srinagar: The nearly two-month long Amarnath pilgrimage began from Jammu on Wednesday amid tight security. In view of the deteriorating security situation, 3,000 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have been airlifted to Kashmir to provide foolproof cover for the pilgrimage. After the first batch was flagged off by J&K Minister for Tourism Nawang Rigzin Jora, 1,272 pilgrims left the base camp aboard around 70 vehicles at 5 a.m. They will later proceed to the cave shrine from Baltal and the Pahalgam base camp. The pilgrimage will conclude on August 24, Shravan Purnima. As they began their journey, the pilgrims chanted Bum Bum Bole and dismissed the apprehension of any threat to them. “The situation in Kashmir has always been like this. There is no problem for the yatra” said Manohar, a pilgrim. Halt at Baltal According to Jammu Deputy Commissioner Manoj K. Dwivedi, the first batch - 566 men, 230 women, 32 children and 444 sadhus - will halt at Baltal before beginning the journey towards the shrine. The cave is at an elevation of 3,880 metres from Baltal. Some of the pilgrims already arrived in the Baltal base camp near Sonmarg late Tuesday evening but will be allowed to proceed to the cave only on Thursday, when the pilgrimage begins officially. More personnel The government requisitioned more paramilitary forces as the CRPF is busy handling the law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley. The BSF will secure the two routes of north and south Kashmir, while the CRPF and the State police will guard the base and transit camps on the pilgrimage routes. DIG Jammu-Kuthua Range Farooq Khan, who was present at the flagging off ceremony, said: “Army, CRPF, ITBP, Armed police and district police have been deployed along the highway and other routes for yatra security.” The pilgrimage would not be stopped for security reasons, he added. Mr. Jora said: “The situation in Kashmir will not be allowed to hamper the yatra.” Three lakh register Shri Amarnath Shrine Board sources said around three lakh people had so far registered for the pilgrimage. The registration will continue till August 22 for the journey on the Pahalgam track and till August 23 for the shorter Baltal route.