Yatra Threat!

Once again there seems to be a heightened buildup around the annual Yatra to Amarnath. This time the issue of security of the pilgrims is the focus of attention and the ball has been set rolling by none other than union minister for home affairs. Mr. Shinde expressed his concern over the safety of pilgrims visiting the holy Amaranath cave shrine in a press briefing at New Delhi. The statement was obviously the government version of the remarks made by General Officer Commanding in chief, Northern Command, General Parnaik, some days back. The general while referring to the intelligence inputs had maintained that militants are planning to disrupt the Yatra.
In a bid to avert any untoward incident during the two-month Yatra, Army has launched operation Shiva. The state forces and the paramilitary troops have also put on high alert to prevent any disturbance in the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.
Meanwhile senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has categorically rejected the notion of threat to the yatra terming it nothing more than propaganda. In a strong worded statement, Geelani has accused New Delhi of using religious affairs for maligning the freedom struggle of Kashmiri people.
The state chief minister in his habitual way of commenting on sensitive issues has expressed his displeasure over the hype created on the issue of security by media.
While it is no hidden truth that since the onset of militancy security of the pilgrims has been an issue and army and security forces are being put under high alert during the pilgrimage days. The annual exercise is nothing new to the security establishment operative in the state. The host population is quite used to it and takes it as a matter of routine. Barring a very few incidents of violence against Yatra, the pilgrimage as a purely religious affair is widely respected by Kashmiris in general. In the height of 2010 mass uprising, Kashmiris regardless of any religious bias arranged transport and food for the stranded yatris. This year too, tight security arrangements could have been made without creating this much of hype. At the most some additional companies could have been deployed to make foolproof security arrangements. Launching of an operation under a cover term that carries deep religious connotations was absolutely unwarranted. This may have its own consequences that only time will tell.
Analysts believe that by creating unwarranted issues like that of security of the pilgrims, the army has found yet another argument against the withdrawal of AFSPA in the state.
As far the media hype over the issue is concerned, chief minister Umar Abdullah’s statement is not only out of place, but rather misconceived.  Rather than accusing the media of making a mountain out of a molehill, his efforts should have been directed towards dissuading New Delhi from issuing statements that could prove a threat to the hard-earned peace in the valley.

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