In the wake of terror threats over the Amarnath Yatra starting July 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrived in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday and took stock of the security arrangements to ensure a violence-free yatra.
According to sources, Shah had detailed deliberations with the concerned officials, laying emphasis on various points critical for the security of the Amarnath Yatra, which has been the target of terror attacks in the past. Shah told the officials that there should be no laxity of security arrangements and strict enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be ensured. “Even the senior officers should personally supervise the security arrangements for the Amarnath Yatra,” Shah said.
The Home Minister also directed all the security agencies to be fully alert and take all preventive steps to ensure a violence-free yatra. Emphasising the safety of the pilgrims, Shah asked the security agencies to ensure the best possible use of latest technologies and gadgets, not only for the security of the yatra, but also to facilitate the movement of the devotees and the tourists.
He specifically drew the forces” attention towards anti-sabotage as well as anti-subversion drills and access control procedures. The Home Minister also underlined the importance of standard operating procedures for convoy movement and emphasised that timely dispatch of convoys should be ensured.
He directed that after the cut-off timings, barricades should be set up at suitable locations and no differentiation should be made between yatris and tourists. Shah also said that barricades should be used at all lateral entry points during convoy movement and all lateral points should be manned 24×7.
The Home Minister also advised all the security forces to continue taking strict action against miscreants and reiterated the need to cover all the sensitive and vulnerable places, including the possible points of infiltration, throughout the state. On June 12, two terrorists, believed to be from the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, struck on a busy road in Anantnag district, killing five CRPF personnel and injuring three others.
The attack came less than three weeks before the commencement of the annual Amaranth Yatra to the famous cave shrine in south Kashmir. Pilgrims travelling to the cave shrine have to pass through the stretch of the road where the June 12 attack took place. The Amarnath Yatra this year is scheduled to begin on July 1 and culminate on August 15. The annual pilgrimage, which attracts scores of pilgrims from around the world, generally starts from Pahalgam or Baltal.
Since the area in which the cave shrine is located is conflicted, there have been cases of terror attacks in the past in which devotees were injured and even killed. In 2017, as many as seven pilgrims were killed and 18 were injured after Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists opened fire on their bus in Khanabal in Anantnag district.
Earlier this month, the Election Commission had said that it would announce the schedule for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the Amarnath Yatra. A violence-free yatra this year will pave the way for the poll panel to conduct elections in the state, which has been under Governor”s rule and then President”s rule since June last year after the BJP pulled out of the alliance with the PDP.