With a rise in spiritual tourism, popular pilgrimages, such as Varanasi and Puri are witnessing higher hotel bookings than other cities this summer. (Source: File Photo)
A multi-layered security cordon, manned by the Army, police and 40,000 troops from CRPF and BSF, is likely to secure the Amarnath Yatra — an annual pilgrimage to the shrine in Jammu and Kashmir — this year. In two back-to-back security reviews for the 60-day Yatra, starting from June 28, the Ministry of Home Affairs Thursday decided to use jammers, CCTV cameras, bulletproof bunkers, dog squads and quick reaction teams on the Yatra route in view security threats. Satellites are also likely to be used to track movement of over three lakhs pilgrims expected to take part in the pilgrimage this year, officials said.
In the first meeting, chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, security situation in the Valley, arrangements for the yatra and suspension of operations in the Valley during Ramzan, were discussed for nearly 40 minutes, sources said.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba held a second meeting with Jammu and Kashmir police, Intelligence Bureau, Army and Home Ministry officials, about an hour later, to discuss the potential threats, including possibilities of fidayeen attacks and security arrangements. After the second review, ADG Media, Bharat Bhusan Babu said: “Today’s meeting was only to discuss security arrangements for the Amaranth Yatra, which is going to begin later this month. The issue of extension (of ceasefire in the Valley) or otherwise of suspension of operation was not discussed.” Sources said a decision on ceasefire will be taken only after Eid-ul-Fitr.
The Centre on May 16 had announced the suspension of operations in J&K and had said it will be extended during Amarnath Yatra if the situation in the Valley improved. J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has also been pushing the Centre to extend the ceasefire by at least two months. However, the BJP believes yatra can be a potential target of militant outfits. They have pointed out that over 35 militants from across LoC have been killed by the Army during suspension of operation.