New Delhi: Undeterred by the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, 22,633 devotees on Tuesday embarked on the pilgrimage amid stepped up security measures.
Escorted by CRPF and police personnel, 3,289 pilgrims, comprising 2,283 men, 756 women and 250 sadhus and sadhvis, left in 68 vehicles in a convoy from Jammu for Baltal and Pahalgam base camps this morning.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and ordered enhanced security for Amarnath pilgrimage in the wake of the killing of seven devotees in a terror strike.
The HM took stock of the prevailing situation in Kashmir Valley, particularly the two routes to the shrine, located in the Himalayas at an altitude of 12,756 feet during the hour-long meeting, official sources said.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, top officials of the home ministry, intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces attended the meeting.
Rajnath reviews situation of Amarnath pilgrims; NSA briefs PM
Issues like security of Amarnath pilgrims and how to prevent such possible attacks in the future were discussed threadbare.
Sources said the home minister directed the officials to ensure enhanced security for the pilgrims. The pilgrimage started on June 29 and will conclude on August 7, as per PTI.
Immediately after the meeting, the NSA briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the deliberations as well as the steps taken for the security of the Amarnath pilgrims, sources said.
Amarnath attack condemnation reflects Kashmiriyat, says Rajnath
Rajnath also said today that he saluted the people of J&K who had condemned the attack on Amarnath pilgrims and kept the spirit of Kashmiriyat alive.
“I am pained at the loss of lives of Amarnath pilgrims. But I salute the people of Kashmir as all sections of society have condemned the attack. It shows the spirit of Kashmiriyat is very much alive,” he told reporters.
Singh described the attack on Amarnath pilgrims as very “unfortunate and painful”.
Head of every Kashmiri hangs in shame over attack, says CM Mehbooba Mufti
Reacting to the incident, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag was a “blot on all Muslims and Kashmiris”.
While visiting the injured in a hospital in Anantnag yesterday, she said the head of every Kashmiri hangs in shame over the incident.
“Pilgrims come to Kashmir every year for the yatra despite all difficulties. And seven people died today. I have no words to condemn it. I hope the security forces and the Jammu and Kashmir police arrest the perpetrators forthwith and take stern action against them,” CM told reporters.
“This incident is a blot on all Kashmiris and Muslims. We will not keep quite till we bring the culprits to book,” Mehbooba said.
She said efforts will be made to ensure that quick action is taken against the culprits and justice is done.
Undeterred, pilgrims embark on Amarnath yatra
On the other hand, officials of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) today informed Governor NN Vohra that “by 10.30 am, 18,838 pilgrims had left for the cave shrine from Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Panjtarni and Baltal yatra camps.”
As many as 5,556 pilgrims, who left Chandanwari, this morning will need to halt en-route and they will reach the shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas the next day, the officials said.
Jammu observed a complete shutdown today amid dozens of protests against the killings with heavy security being deployed in the winter capital.
Since the beginning of the pilgrimage, 1,46,692 yatris have paid obeisance at the cave shrine.
Anantnag terror atatck
Terrorists yesterday killed seven Amarnath pilgrims, including six women, and injured 19 as they struck a bus in Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
As many as 21,000 paramilitary personnel in addition to state police forces have been deployed for security of the pilgrimage routes.
The number of paramilitary personnel deployed this year is 9,500 more than last year.
However, the pilgrims were travelling in a bus which was not part of the convoy of vehicles taking the Amarnath pilgrims with adequate security.
The bus was attacked around 8.20 pm in Anantnag district when it was on its way to Jammu from Srinagar.
The police said the bus driver had violated rules for the pilgrimage, which state that no yatra vehicle should be on the highway after 7 pm as the security cover is withdrawn after that.
(With Agency inputs)
Source: Zee News