Thousands of pilgrims are set to embark for the annual Amarnath Yatra on Thursday, June 28, amid huge security arrangements. The pilgrimage that will go on for 60-days has reportedly received several threats of terror attacks, after which security forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have been put on high alert.
Faith over fear
Despite the threats, the year 2018 is likely to see the highest number of pilgrims visiting the shrine and the advance registrations have reportedly crossed the 2 lakh mark. The reason behind this jump in numbers is said to be cheaper helicopter fares, the cost of a one-way ride being just Rs 1,600.
About 40,000 pilgrims have booked tickets on these choppers and the seats for the first three weeks have been sold out, according to the Economic Times.
Hizbul on Kashmiri pandits
Hizbul Mujahideen also had no issues with Kashmiri Pandits and those who migrated to other states from the valley could return to their homes. However, it did say that separate colonies for them must not be established.
What Hizbul said
"You don't need any security as you are our guests,'' the voice in the clip is heard saying.
Recently J&K DGP SP Vaid said that the security of the Amarnath yatra has been beefed-up, as militants are planning to attack the yatra. This is not true. We don't have any plan to attack Amarnath yatra and will never attack them,'' the message said.
They (yatris) are coming here to fulfil their religious obligations. We have never attacked the Amarnath yatra in the past as our fight is not with the yatris. Our fight is with those people who are committing atrocities on our people and those who forced us to pick up the gun,'' it added.
Hizbul Miujahideen welcomes pilgrims
Security forces may be on high alert in the state over LeT threats, but militant group Hizbul Mujahideen has released an audio clip, assuring the pilgrims that they are safe and have nothing to worry about.
In the audio clip, a voice, believed to be that of Riyaz Naikoo, the commander of the terror group, said that the Hizbul Mujahideen has no plans to carry out any attack and pilgrims could even travel without any kind of security cover.
The government has also said each vehicle carrying the Amarnath pilgrims would be monitored with the radio frequency tag. In addition, a joint control room will also be set up by the security forces and the state police for better monitoring, protection and quick action.
An official also revealed that several arrangements such as CCTV cameras, quick reaction teams, and dog squads will be pressed into service. The security officials will also take part in rigorous drills and tracking of vehicles will be a part of it.
Security arrangements in J&K
Keeping in my mind this threat, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has reportedly formed a special motorcycle squad to monitor the activities during the pilgrimage and keep an eye on possible troublemakers.
"Keeping in view the convenience and security of pilgrims, the CRPF has prepared a special motorcycle squad, which on one hand, will ensure the security of pilgrims on the yatra route and on the other, will also be used as small ambulances for them," Zee News quoted a CRPF spokesperson as saying.
LeT threat to Amarnath Yatra
Security forces in the North Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have been on high alert for the last few days. The alert comes after the intelligence agencies said that about 20 terrorists, mostly of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit, have sneaked into the valley and plan to attack the pilgrims.
Fresh terror threat
Security agencies have now issued a fresh warning of a possible terror attack. As per the latest warning, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants are planning to strike locations such as Pissu Top and Sheshnag.
Road connectivity being restored
As thousands of people are set to take the pilgrimage in the next two months, authorities have been making all efforts to make things easier for them. After the rains, workers have been deployed to restore road connectivity in the region
Pilgrimage temporarily suspended
The Amarnath Yatra that began on Thursday, June 28, has been temporarily suspended as heavy rains have been lashing several parts of J&K. As the weather worsened along the Baltal track, pilgrims were asked to stay in their camps