Terror Shadow Over Amarnath Yatra: Shinde

Terror Shadow Over Amarnath Yatra: Shinde

19 June 2013
Times of India


New Delhi: The Amarnath Yatra may once again take place under the shadow of terror threat as both the Centre and the state have got intelligence inputs suggesting vulnerability of this annual pilgrimage. Confirming the inputs, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Wednesday said, 'There is terror threat to Amarnath Yatra (which is due to commence on June 28). All efforts will be made to ensure security of every pilgrim.' Without going into specifics of the inputs, Shinde said the government was taking precautions and sending additional forces to ensure safety and security of all pilgrims visiting the 13,500-feet high Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir. Though there were no specific inputs with officials describing it as somewhat routine intelligence based on the vulnerability of this annual event, the Jammu and Kashmir government promptly declared the entire pilgrimage route in the state as 'highly prone' to terrorist attacks and directed security forces to augment their vigil. Last year, an estimated 6.2 lakh pilgrims had a glimpse of the ice stalagmite structure inside the cave which devotees believe symbolizes the mythological powers of Lord Shiva. Amarnath Yatra over the years has remained by and large peaceful barring three militant strikes - one each in 2000, 2001 and 2002 - that left 36 pilgrims and several others dead. Security arrangements for the yatra also came up for detailed review at the Unified Headquarters meeting, chaired by J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar. 'Considering the security scenario, topography of the yatra area, high potential of terrorist attacks on the yatris to create law and order situation throughout the state and the country, sensitive nature of the yatra, and the high publicity the yatra generates, the entire yatra area is highly prone to terrorist attacks,' the J&K home department said in a circular issued to all agencies concerned. The circular, issued last week, directed the Army, police and other security forces to take action as per their standard operating procedures to ensure a safe pilgrimage. 'Directions (and) inputs received in this regard from intelligence agencies and Unified HQ should be promptly shared with other security forces (and) intelligence agencies and necessary action should be initiated to prevent any mishap,' the circular said. Security agencies have also been directed to carry out aerial surveillance of the yatra area and deploy spotters in adequate numbers at the camps. 'Besides adequate deployment of security forces at the yatra camps, aerial surveillance of the yatra area may be undertaken and spotters may be deployed in adequate numbers at the yatra camps, particularly at the holy cave shrine area to spot unwanted activities (and) suspicious characters,' it added.