Amarnath Yatra Ends Peacefully

6 August 2009
The Hindu

PAHALGAM: The nearly two-month-long Shri Amarnath Yatra concluded peacefully on Wednesday. Always high on the hit-list of terrorists, the annual yatra was protected by an elaborate multi-layered security cordon. Despite an inclement weather and threats successfully kept at bay by Central paramilitary forces, security and intelligence agencies, nearly four lakh pilgrims undertook the arduous trek this year through the high mountain ranges to the holy cave to catch a glimpse of the naturally-formed “ice Shivlingam” situated at a height of 13,500 feet. Guarding the Northern route that begins at Baltal and the Southern axis that starts from Pahalgam, were personnel of the BSF while the responsibility of the security of the pilgrims, camps and the holy cave was entrusted to the CRPF. Hi-tech security gadgets Both the BSF and the CRPF put to use hi-tech gadgets for detection of explosives and land mines in the hostile terrain. After the terror attacks of 2002 at Nunwan Yatri Camp near Pahalgam and at Sheshnag camp a year before, Central forces and intelligence agencies work in tandem to ensure foolproof security during the yatra which begins mid-June and concludes on the day of Rakshabandhan. To mark the concluding ceremonies at the holy cave, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N. N. Vohra who also presides over the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board offered prayers as the “Chhadi Mubarak” (the holy mace of Lord Shiva) was also taken there in a procession from “Dashnami Akhara” in Srinagar, its abode. The “Chhadi Mubarak” would be taken back to Pahalgam for special prayers during its return journey. It would be safely kept in its abode at Srinagar after completion of all religious ceremonies to be taken out again next year. On terrorists’ radar Referring to the threat perception to the Yatra, CRPF’s DIG (Operations) Nalin Prabhat told visiting journalists that groups such as Lashkar always keep on planning “something or the other” but security forces and intelligence agencies “have been successful” in thwarting such nefarious plans. “We have tightened security for the yatris at all the camps which were fenced and guarded by CRPF personnel throughout the Amarnath Yatra,” Mr. Prabhat said on Wednesday. CRPF had also deployed its women officers on duty during the yatra. While the Army guards the heights to check any attempt of infiltration from the mountains, BSF personnel provide security cover along the route. “The idea of multi-layered security cover is that even if terrorist manages to breach one cordon, he will be caught by the two other cordons,” BSF DIG Rakesh Sharma told journalists. Inclement weather The yatra began on June 15 through the more arduous 16-km-long Baltal route along the Northern Axis this year, while inclement weather and snowfall delayed the yatra from the traditional 45-km long Pahalgam route till June 25. Enveloped in legends, the yatra has seen countless pilgrims and sages, including Swami Vivekanand, Swami Ramtirath and Adi Shankaracharya, trekking up the snowy heights. Today, the yatra provides employment to the men who bring their ponies here, the luggage carriers and makeshift shops, all manned by Muslims in tough conditions. The yatra thus has emerged as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity despite attempts of giving political colour and whipping up controversies. As the yatra drew to a close, camps and free community kitchens were seen folded up in Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.