Stone Pelters Could Be Biggest Threat To Amarnath Pilgrimage

New Delhi: Stone pelting mobs and terrorists pose equal threat to the annual Amarnath pilgrimage that begins June 29, a senior official said today.

More than 27,000 security personnel will be deployed along the route to ensure that all goes peacefully, he said after a high-level meeting to discuss security arrangements for the pilgrimage to the high-altitude shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The meeting was chaired by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and attended by top officials of the state and central governments.

“There are equal threats from militants and stone pelters. All threats are being taken care of,” Advisor in the Home Ministry Ashok Prasad said when asked whether stone pelting mobs could be the biggest threat to the 40-day pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine located at a height of 3,888 metres.

Security forces will take into consideration all issues before finalising the security plan, he said in response to a question on the possible impact of the destruction of Pakistan Army posts by the Indian Army.

“Definitely, we will make all efforts to ensure a peaceful pilgrimage,” Mr Prasad said.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has sought around 27,000 security personnel from the central government, mostly Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.

Last year, around 20,000 paramilitary personnel besides state police personnel were deployed along the route.

Though there are no specific threats to the pilgrims, the central and Jammu and Kashmir governments are taking no chances and ordered all possible steps to ensure foolproof security, officials said.

During the meeting, Mr Mehrishi is said to have directed all agencies concerned to keep a close watch and maintain effective coordination to ensure all goes smoothly.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary B B Vyas, Director General of Police S P Vaid and top officials of the home ministry attended the meeting.

Notwithstanding the continuing unrest in the Kashmir Valley, there has been no drop in the number of devotees who have enrolled for the arduous trek, an official said. So far, around 1.80 lakh pilgrims have registered.

Around 2.20 lakh pilgrims had offered prayers at the naturally formed ice-Shivlingam last year. The shrine is located 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal.

The Amarnath yatra will conclude on August 7.

Jammu and Kashmir has seen protests and violence since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July last year. There was massive violence during the April 9 bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat in which eight people lost their lives in more than 200 incidents.

The Election Commission had cancelled the May 25 bypoll to Anantnag Lok Sabha seat saying the situation was not condusive to holding elections.