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Subhadra Kaul | HENB | Jammu | June 28, 2017:: The first batch of pilgrims for Annual Amarnath Yatra 2017 left here for the cave shrine in the Kashmir Valley amid extraordinary security arrangements after intelligent inputs cautioned of militant attacks from pro-Pak and subversive Jihadi elements, police said.
The Yatra was inaugurated by the Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh through ‘Puja’ and then flagged off the first batch of Amarnath Yatris from Jammu Base camp earlier today. The pilgrims will stay tonight at twin base-camps of Pahalgam and Baltal in Anantnag and Ganderbal districts respectively and then will take trekking routes to reach the destination of Holy Amarnath Cave shrine situated nearly 14,000 feet above the sea level.
A total of 2,280 pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas here for the Himalayan cave shrine in Anantnag district in 72 vehicles at 5.22 a.m., a police official said.
The pilgrim convoy consisting of 1,811 males, 422 females and 47 holy men was escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicles, he added.
Given the prevailing law and order situation in the valley, a multi-layered security arrangement manned by the Army, CRPF, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Jammu and Kashmir Police have been provided for the safe passage of the ‘yatris’ right from their entry into Lakhanpur in Kathua district.
The 40-day-long pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath in the mountainous region of south Kashmir will commence today from Jammu, about 200 kms from the shrine. Over 2.30 lakh pilgrims have registered for the yatra this year as reports came in.
Authorities have decided that no vehicle carrying pilgrims would be allowed to cross the Jawahar Tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway after 3.30 p.m.
“This has been done so that the yatris reach the Baltal base camp within seven hours from the tunnel. They don’t have to make a night halt midway. This will ensure that they don’t travel after nightfall,” the police official said.
Senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has said the pilgrims are guests of the people in the valley and nobody would harm or obstruct the performance of their religious duties.
But, “Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” according to a letter sent by Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) Muneer Khan to the Army, the CRPF, and range DIGs in the state.
“The input is assessed to be a HUMINT (human intelligence) and it needs further corroboration,” the IGP said in the letter.
Asked about the intelligence issue, Special Director General of CRPF, SN Shrivastava said, “I will not like to discuss the issue in public, but you are aware about the situation in Kashmir. We have taken measures as per the these intelligence inputs and have made appropriate security arrangements.”
“This (yatra) is a big challenge to us+. Elaborate security has been put in place for an incident-free yatra and to ensure safety and security of pilgrims and camps,” Shrivastava, who visited base camp along with IG Ashkoor Wani, told reporters.
Dr Nirmal Singh, Deputy CM of J&K told HENB, “We have taken all the necessary measures for the success of Amarnath Yatra and also appealed all concerned to extend their good will and support for this. Nothing to be worried now.”