New Delhi: A multi-layered security cordon including 40,000 personnel from different units, CCTV and drone cameras has been put in place as the annual Amarnath yatra is set to begin from Monday. More than 1.5 lakh pilgrims from across the country have registered themselves for the annual pilgrimage, which takes place from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district. The 46-day yatra will conclude on August 15 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival.

“A robust security cover has been put in place for the Yatra which includes satellite and chip-based tracking of vehicles and pilgrims. The deployment of forces will be in various layers to ensure smooth conduct of the pilgrimage,” officials told news agency PTI.

Elaborating upon the security plan, they said apart from a special motorcycle squad of CRPF personnel with cameras fixed on their helmets accompanying the convoys — which was introduced last year – CCTV cameras have been placed at various locations at base camps and sensitive spots along the twin routes, including on the highway.

The 300 additional companies of security forces deployed for the conduct of parliamentary polls in Kashmir Valley have been retained and deployed for the security of the pilgrimage, they said.

Besides the security deployment on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and Yatra routes, stationing personnel in sensitive areas and quick reaction teams (of police and CRPF), mobile vehicle check posts along with technical monitoring, including through drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are all part of the comprehensive security plan.

Besides, each Yatra vehicle will be fitted with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag which will remain under the radars connected with respective control rooms, and no such vehicle will be allowed to cross a particular point after the cut-off timing.

To further strengthen the security apparatus, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has provided every pilgrim with barcodes which will be connected with towers set up at multiple locations along the Yatra route.

Inspector General of CRPF, Ravideep Singh Sahi said stringent security arrangements have been made right from Jammu to the holy cave shrine.

“The forces have been divided sector-wise and (each sector) includes components like ROP (road opening parties), night area domination, law and order and QRTs (quick reaction teams). This comprehensive plan has been made based on the experience of last year as well as that of previous years,” he said.

The IG CRPF asserted that technology is always a force multiplier and RFID tags will be used for the Yatra this year as well. “This year, the shrine board has put in place a yatri management system through which we can track the location of each and every pilgrim. UAVs and drones along with CCTV cameras are being used for the security of yatris (pilgrims),” he said.

“The CRPF is also using IP-based CCTV cameras to track the forces and the route on real-time basis. We have a command and control structure based on the perceived threats and our focus will be to implement the security plan on the ground. The security scenario is totally under control,” Sahi added.

Inspector General of CRPF, Jammu, A V Chauhan said necessary security arrangements have been put in place all along the Yatra route, base camps and halting stations for the safety of pilgrims.

“All security agencies are involved and our primary concern is the safety of pilgrims,” he said.

Home Minister’s Directive to Officials

Last week, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had warned officials against any complacency in the security arrangements for the yatra and directed them to strictly implement the standard operating procedures for the pilgrimage.

During his two-day visit to the state, Shah underlined the importance of the standard operating procedure for convoy movement and specifically stressed on timely dispatch of convoys.

No Threat to Amarnath Yatra: Separatists 

Separatist leaders had asserted that there was no real threat to the pilgrims J&K for the revered Amarnath yatra.

The separatist leaders under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yaseen Malik, said that a few media channels were running a smear campaign and propaganda about the threat to the Amarnath Yatra and pilgrims in the Valley.

“Kashmiri people have never compromised on their tradition of hospitality, even in the toughest and trying times, and always played a friendly host, whether to a tourist or an Amarnath pilgrim who came to Kashmir,” the separatists said in a statement.

They also said that the people of Valley will continue to retain and nourish the tradition of brotherhood and communal amity.

“There is no threat to Amarnath Yatris from Kashmiris as reported by some mischievous media outlets from their cozy studios in New Delhi and these pilgrims are very much safe in the Valley,” it said.

Pilgrims Satisfied With Arrangements

The pilgrims have also expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made by the government. “I am very happy to join the Yatra. I am satisfied with the arrangements and salute the forces for their service to the nation,” Shurswati Muzamdar from Durgapur area of West Bengal said.

Sonika, a resident of Chandigarh, said she was undertaking the Yatra for the 13th time and is accompanied by relatives and friends. “There is nothing to worry about… we are safe and satisfied with the arrangements,” she said.

When Terror Struck Amarnath Yatra Pilgrims in Past

As many as 2,85,006 pilgrims paid obeisance at the cave shrine last year, while the number of pilgrims undertaking the Yatra was 3,52,771 in 2015, 3,20,490 in 2016 and 2,60,003 in 2017. In 2017, a militant attack on the Yatra had left eight pilgrims dead and 19 injured.

In 2001 as well, the Amarnath yatra was targeted when terrorists had struck in the Sheshnag area close to the holy cave of Amarnath, killing 13 people.

Prior to that, terrorists had attack Amarnath pilgrims on August 1, 2000 in Pahalgam area, killing 30 people, who also included porters.