Annual Amarnath Yatra Begins Amid Tight Security



Pilgrims negotiating the rough track at Teerial Pather while on way to Amarnath cave. Photo: Bilal Bahadur
Pilgrims negotiating the rough track at Teerial Pather while on way to Amarnath cave. File Photo: Bilal Bahadur

Over a 1000 devotees have left for the Amarnath shrine in South Kashmir from Jammu marking the beginning of the 59-day annual Hindu pilgrimage, officials said.

Police said that yatra has begun amid tight security arrangements to thwart any attack.

“Amarnath yatra began from Jammu today. A batch of 1,280 pilgrims have left from Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu this morning for their onward journey to the 3,888 meters high cave shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir Valley,” Dr Piyush, Yatra officer and Additional Deputy Commissioner Jammu told media.

Located at a height of 14,500-feet in the mountains at the end of the Lidder valley, the Amarnath shrine houses a frozen ice stalagmite, ‘Lingam’, believed to be phallic representation of Shiva. The shrine is highly revered by Hindus across the country who throng annually to the place to pay obeisance.

The batch comprising of 919 men, 191 women, 16 children and 154 sadhus left in a cavalcade of 34 vehicles guarded by heavy contingent of CRPF personnel from the base camp at 5.10 am, a police said.

A total of 2,04,508 pilgrims had secured advance registration and 22,104 had purchased helicopter tickets from Baltal and Pahalgam to Panjtarni, they said.

The yatra was flagged off by Jammu and Kashmir minister Health Minister Lal Singh, Minister of Public Health Engineering Sukhnandan Choudhary and Minister of State for Education, Culture and Information Priya Sethi.

Apart from power and water supply, the ration and food supply items are being delivered to all camps while medical camps have been established at five out of six camps. 8,800 ponies have been duly registered of the total 13,000 which are allowed to operate on both routes, an official spokesman said.

2,500 toilets and 245 baths have been installed out of a total of 2,792 while firewood supplies have reached five out of seven camps, and all 115 langars have reported at the camps and about 100 have already been installed.

Sanitation arrangements and Joint Police Control Rooms are in place and fire-fighting units are reporting at the camps, the spokesman said.

Apart from sanitisation of the highway and other roads, security forces including the Army, have taken up positions all along the yatra route, base camps and other places for an incident-free yatra. Over 55 security companies have been deployed for the yatra in Jammu and Kashmir.

The pilgrimage has been dogged by the environmental experts in the past over the alleged ‘damage’ to the sensitive ecology of the site. Last month, Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Modi government, set off a controversy by saying that yatra posed no threat to ecology of the region and can be conducted throughout a year. His statement was criticized by environmental experts of all stripes.


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