Amit Shah reviews security and logistical arrangements for Amarnath Yatra

While the Amarnath Yatra could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, around three lakh pilgrims are likely to participate in the ‘yatra’ this year, which is scheduled to end on August 11.

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday reviewed the logistical and security arrangements for the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir in two high-level meetings, officials said.

The back-to-back meetings to discuss the pilgrimage, due to start on June 30 after two years, follow several targeted killings, including of Kashmiri pundits, in the union territory.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla along with senior officials attended both meetings. National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, Army Chief General Manoj Pande and Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief Dilbag Singh attended the meeting to discuss the arrangements for security for the pilgrimage.

Senior officials from the ministries of health, telecommunications, road transport, civil aviation and information technology took part in the meeting to discuss the logistics of the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in an altitude of 3,888 meters.

The ‘yatra’, which presents a great security challenge for the government, could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was cut short in 2019 just before the repeal of Article 370.

About three lakh pilgrims are likely to participate in the “yatra”, which is expected to end on August 11.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will be given to each pilgrim to monitor their movements and safety, officials said. Previously, RFID tags were only given to pilgrims’ vehicles.

About 12,000 paramilitaries (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and Kashmir police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes, one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said.

Drone cameras will help security forces ensure the protection of pilgrims.

There has been an upsurge in attacks on non-Muslims and foreigners living in the Kashmir Valley since the repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019 .

The review comes after a series of murders in Union territory. On May 12, Rahul Bhat, a government employee, was killed by terrorists in his office in Budgam district. A day after the death of the Kashmiri pandit, constable Reyaz Ahmad Thokar was shot dead by terrorists at his residence in Pulwama district.

Last week, four pilgrims were killed and at least 20 injured when the bus they were traveling in caught fire near Katra in Jammu. Police suspect a sticky bomb may have been used to start the fire.

Bhat’s murder sparked protests by members of the Kashmiri Pandit community who staged organized protests in the valley demanding tighter security and the relocation of government employees to safer locations.

The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomeration of the main JK parties, on Sunday urged Kashmiri Pandit employees not to leave the valley as it was their home and it would be painful for all.

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