Annual pilgrimage, ‘Largest-ever security cover’ for Amarnath Yatra’

When the Amarnath pilgrimage  begin, the  vehicles are tagged with electromagnetic chips, bike and bullet-proof SUV police convoys and scores of bullet-proof bunkers have been deployed as part of the “biggest-ever” security blanket thrown to secure pilgrims undertaking the Amarnath Yatra that begins in Jammu and Kashmir from tomorrow.

Over two lakh pilgrims have registered for the annual pilgrimage to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas till now.

A posse of over 40,000 armed CRPF and state police personnel have virtually dotted the yatra routes from Jammu — via Pahalgam and Baltal — with their overwhelming presence in armoured vehicles.

Forces have deployed a huge assortment of CCTV cameras and drones, assisted by mounted Army columns, to ensure that the yatra route is not breached by terrorists and in case of a possible attack reinforcements reach as fast as possible.

“Each vehicle that has pilgrims and is part of the yatra is being tagged using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and they will be monitored at a control room made operational here.

“Security forces have been given specific responsibility to sanitise routes and secure a select number of pilgrim vehicles by sandwiching them between bullet proof troop carriers,” a senior security official told PTI.

The CRPF road clearing parties will keep sweeping yatra roads against possible improvised explosive device threats to yatra convoys from early morning till late evening, he said.

The top official added that these arrangements are the “biggest-ever deployment of the security paraphernalia to ensure protection to the annual yatra that comes in the backdrop of a long and turbulent time of violence in the Kashmir Valley.”

The RFID tagging of vehicles concept has been introduced for the first time after taking a lesson from last year’s militant attack on a civil vehicle in Anantnag district that left eight pilgrims dead and several injured.

“Thousands of such tags have been purchased and are being stuck on vehicles. They cost about Rs 72 a piece and they will help give a clear picture to security forces in case a yatra vehicle is lost in the way or takes a wrong route. QRTs will immediately be scarmbled to track such a four-wheeler,” a CRPF officer said. P P Pauly, Commandant of the 73rd battalion of the force, said a control room has been created at his camp in Bemina to track all the RFID-bearing vehicles even as a 100 personnel strong squad has been kept on standby to respond to any untoward incident.

A special desk has been set up at the Srinagar International Airport by the CRPF to register pilgrims and to tag their vehicles from there, in an extension to the exercise that is taking place at the land borders that leads to Jammu and Kashmir. S K Todkar, a devotee from Maharashtra who arrived in the state yesterday, said he and his 10 other family members are “undettered by the fact that a pilgrims’ bus was attacked last year.”

“We are here for the yatra for the third time and we are sure we will finish it successfully. Risk to life by possible terror threats is just one part of the entire Amarnath journey,” Todkar’s father Rambhau said.  — PT

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