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J&K seeking more Central forces to tackle post-G20 terror threat to Amarnath Yatra

Photo for representation

Srinagar: With the security and intelligence agencies continuously receiving inputs and communication intercepts about terror plans being hatched at the behest of  Pakistan, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is seeking deployment of 300 paramilitary companies for protection of the annual Amarnath Yatra.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah would be taking a review of the security arrangements related to the Amarnath pilgrimage anytime between 15 June and 20 June. By the current weekend there is a possibility of the preliminary meeting of the police and paramilitary forces being called by the Union Home Minister, according to well-placed official sources.

“However, the main review would be held in the third week of this month” a senior official said.

“This meeting, which will be attended by the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and top officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, CID, besides representatives from the Central security and intelligence agencies including the Army and Central Armed Police Forces, is likely to be held in New Delhi. However, there is also a possibility of the Home Minister’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir in the next two weeks”, the official source said.

Sources revealed to India Narrative that immediately after the conclusion of the successful G20 event in Srinagar, agencies had begun to receive inputs, from human as well as technical intelligence, about some terror plans of an attack on the annual Hindu pilgrimage.

“There are clear directions to some terror outfits from their handlers in Pakistan to arrange for some attacks either on the Yatra or pilgrims or even on tourists or members of the minority communities before the start or during the course of the pilgrimage. But we are fully in control of the situation and well aware of this planning”, said an official source. He said that all necessary arrangements with regard to security and logistics were being put in place.

Sources said that the Union Territory government could spare around 100 companies of the J&K Armed Police and reserves from the CRPF and SSB for the security of the pilgrimage. However, like last year, this year’s requisition was around 300 companies. The situation would be reviewed after possible withdrawal of over 150 paramilitary companies from violence-hit Manipur in the next 10 days. “There are all assurances from the Centre that no stone would be left unturned to secure the pilgrims and the whole Yatra”, said another official.

Over 5 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit the cave shrine and pay obeisance to the deity this year during the 62-day-long spiritual odyssey which is scheduled to start on 1 July and end on 31 August, 2023. In 2022, the pilgrimage was conducted for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 followed by a two-year-long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite some vagaries of the weather, as many as 3.65 lakh pilgrims from across India performed Darshan of the holy ice lingam of Lord Shiva at the cave shrine off Pahalgam and Sonmarg.

This year, the number of pilgrims is likely to go up. The registration of pilgrims has already started through online mode. The process of making special Photo Identity Cards and GPS-fitted collars for each and every pilgrim and the people associated with the administration of the pilgrimage is currently underway. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, who is also the Chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), has conducted a preliminary worship session and assured the best possible heath and communication facilities for the pilgrims.

Officials said that the Army, like in previous years, would man the outer rings and heights besides the twin tracks from Pahalgam and Baltal (Sonmarg) side. The Army and paramilitary deployment on the Jammu-Srinagar highway was also being worked out. The regular Army would also play a crucial role in the yatra arrangements especially at the cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas and twin tracks, besides securing the National Highways of Jammu-Srinagar and Jammu-Pathankot.

For the first time this year, arrangements are being made for live telecast of the morning and evening sessions of worship, straight from the cave shrine.