On Tuesday, the Union home ministry indicated that it would directly oversee security arrangements for the annual Amarnath Yatra this year, the first time in almost a decade that it’s doing so. This decision by the Ministry of Home Affairs came after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat visited Kashmir to review security arrangements for the pilgrimage, which starts on 28 June.
As of now, 211,994 pilgrims have registered for the Yatra this year, Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra was informed by officials of the shrine board on Tuesday. “Registration is being conducted since 1 March this year, and yatris can visit 440 designated branches of Punjab National Bank, J&K Bank and YES Bank located in 32 states and Union Territories across the country,” a statement issued by the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar said.
The 60-day-long Amarnath Yatra is being carried out under heavy security deployment and the MHA is unwilling to let the state government handle the responsibility of ensuring security. In July last year, militants had allegedly attacked a bus carrying pilgrims in Anantnag. Seven persons were killed, six of them women, while 19 persons were injured. However, the bus was travelling late in the evening, against the advisory issued by the local police.
This year, as many as 213 additional companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed to secure the nearly 400-kilometre yatra route, which starts in Jammu and moves on to the two base camps of Baltal and south Kashmir’s Pahalgam. Furthermore, quick reaction teams of the Indian Army and CRPF, in addition to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, will also be deployed throughout the route.
Director General of Police SP Vaid said the security arrangements for the yatra are foolproof and a top priority for the police. “The Centre has provided us with the additional forces”
The police had earlier said militants were preparing for an attack on the 36-kilometre-long trek of the Yatra. However, the Hizbul Mujahideen later said the claims were “baseless”. Riyaz Naikoo, commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, said he invited Hindu pilgrims to perform their annual Yatra.