Srinagar: Extraordinary security arrangements have been put in place for a secure and smooth Yatra for the devotees, who are expected to visit the holy cave of Amarnath, in a large number, for pilgrimage this year.
The 43-day-long pilgrimage to the Himalayan shrine is scheduled to start on June 30 from the twin routes - the traditional 48-km Nunwan in south Kashmir's Pahalgam and the 14-km shorter Baltal in central Kashmir's Ganderbal - after a gap of two years due to COVID pandemic.
All the peaks leading to the holy cave from Pahalgam and Baltal have been covered and security forces have set temporary posts on these peaks.
“Sanitisation has been carried out and round the clock vigil is being maintained,” a senior Army officer told Greater Kashmir. “Movement is being monitored round the clock.”
Fearing the use of drones by terrorists, the officer said, “Anti-drones system has been installed on the routes to Yatra. They are connected to a control room as it has been established for the same.” “There is close synergy among different security agencies manning the pilgrimage,” he added.
The officer said that pilgrimage at both the routes would be monitored with the help of CCTVs and drones. “Each day the Yatra will start after the due announcement as the routes have been distributed in sectors,” he said, adding that every sector would be supervised by the team of officers from security agencies jointly.
A senior JK Police officer said that for the first time RFID tags were being provided to pilgrims. “Now the vehicles carrying them will be tracked,” he said, adding that tags would help them to keep a tab on the devotees. Reliable sources in the security establishment said, “The Multi Agency Centre (MAC), which collates inputs from various wings of security agencies, has highlighted increased threats to pilgrimage this year.” “So far there is no specific threat. But the measures have been taken for incident free Yatra this year,” he said, adding that the alert had been raised. “Robust arrangements along the routes leading to the traditional route from Pahalgam and Baltal have already been made,” he said.
He said that special focus was being given to roads leading to the Yatra routes from Bandipora and other areas.
Besides, the officer said that security forces on the ground had also been sensitised about the threat of "sticky bombs.
“These are very small in size and usually magnetic. These bombs can be attached to vehicles and detonated using a timer and a remotely-held device, hence the name “sticky bombs.” Some of the sticky bombs we recovered had double tape on them and no magnet on them,” he said.
“The bombs recovered in Akhnoor in May were in tiffins. Some were detected with traces of RDX too,” he added.
Pertinently, sticky bombs first emerged in J&K in February 2021 when they were recovered from Samba in the Jammu. Based on recent arrests and interrogations, security agencies now believe that terror groups in Kashmir may have these bombs.
On Saturday a top Army commander had said that there was an increased threat perception to the Amarnath yatra this year. “We generally receive inputs about terrorists targetting the yatra every year, but, this year, there are more such inputs.”
The top Army General said that they were expecting an almost double to three times increase in the number of the yatris this time. “A lot of preparations has been put into place,” he said.
“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.” The endeavour of the administration or the security forces was to ensure a safe and secure Yatra, he said.
“But we cannot say that we have made it 100 percent foolproof,” he said, adding that every effort was underway for a peaceful pilgrimage.