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Government ignored inputs about Amarnath yatra terror attack

Military Intelligence had issued warning and given inputs about the possibility of terror attacks on Amarnath yatra pilgrims but BJP government failed to pay heed towards it. Even, the government had radio intercepts speaking about possible attacks on soft targets. Yatra was on top of their agenda. Earlier also on different occasions, militants had made determined moves to disrupt it. There was every apprehension that in view of Pakistan’s bid to sabotage the ‘ceasefire’, yatra was obviously a soft target. In spite of this, Army this year was not deployed in sufficient strength, nor was security tightened. Seven Amarnath pilgrims were slaughtered while 12 including three policemen were injured after militants attacked a yatri bus and a police party in Anantnag along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in south Kashmir. One of those injured is in a critical state. This is the first attack ever on Amarnath pilgrims. As usual, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi did his duty by tweeting, “Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in Jammu and Kashmir” but “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate”. This is what he and his leaders have been saying from past three years but no stern action has been taken against any perpetrator.

The bus that came under attack at Anantnag had a Gujarat state number plate. The Jammu-Srinagar Highway has been closed after the attack. The bus had come from Sonamarg. The pilgrims were on their way back after visiting the Amarnath shrine. The police were escorting the pilgrims when the militants opened fire. However, some media reports saying that the bus was travelling without any escort. The police also claimed that the bus driver had violated rules for the pilgrimage, which states that no yatra vehicle should be on a highway after 7 pm. The bus was reportedly not a part of the main yatra convoy and was not registered with the shrine board. The main yatra convoy is escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has now rushed troops to the spot. The report said that around 1.2 lakh pilgrims have registered themselves this year. During the last ten years of militancy raging in Kashmir, the number of pilgrims visiting cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi has gone up seven fold. In the case of Amarnath, every year the number of yatris goes on increasing. Despite warning signals, mismanagement and complacency were seen all through the pilgrimage.

In 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage mostly Hindu pilgrims, were killed by Kashmiri separatist militants in Pahalgam town. The pilgrims were on their way to Amarnath temple on annual pilgrimage. Many of those killed were porters and men hiring their horses to ferry the pilgrims to the site. Subsequently, then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pahalgam and blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the killings. Since then the attacks have occurred repeatedly.

The Holy Cave of Lord Amarnath, the cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, historic temple of Sharada (now in PoK) and Martand temple are four places, which have sub-continental importance. The pilgrimages to these places foster strong sense of cultural unity among the regional Hindu communities of the Indian sub-continent. The refusal of the sectarian rulers of Pakistan to allow Hindu Jathas to the Sharada temple in Neelam valley has in no way declined its importance, particularly for the 50 lakh strong Sarsawat Brahmin community of India, of which Kashmiri Hindus form an integral part.

If we look in the past, hope you all remember whatever happened at Pahalgam drew international attention to the sadist violence, indulged in by the “mujahids” against the innocent people. Reporting in contemporary Kashmir has got messed up in multiple versions of the same incident. That makes objectivity an obvious casualty. Hope this time Modi government takes some strict action and provides security cover to Yatris.

Amarnath cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam town. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of Hindu devotees undertake an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave. In 2011 it received about 634,000 people, the highest recorded number for the site. The number was 622,000 in 2012 and 350,000 in 2013. Pilgrims visit the holy site during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July–August, coinciding with the Hindu holy month of Shraavana. The beginning of the annual pilgrimage, called Amarnath Yatra that is marked by ‘pratham pujan’ to invoke the blessings of Shri Amarnathji.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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