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Amarnath yatra begins amid tight security

Jammu: The annual Amarnath yatra today began as the first batch of pilgrims left for the cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas from the base-camp here amid tight security. The first batch consisting of 2,294 pilgrims was flagged off from Bagwati Nagar base-camp in Jammu around 0430 hours by the Minister for Tourism Nawang Rigzin Jora and Political Advisor to Chief Minister Devinder Rana.

First batch of pilgrims included 1,469 males, 476 females, 108 children and 241 sadhus, which left in 69 vehicles including 51 buses and 18 Light motor vehicles (LMVs) amid tight mobile security escort of CRPF. Singing religious slogans, hymns and prayers, the pilgrims with holy bandannas tied to their fore-heads left for the Valley amid joy and happiness for their onward journey to Amarnath.

"The yatra has begun this year. We pray for a peaceful yatra to all the pilgrims. A batch of pilgrims have been flagged off here marking the beginning of Amarnath yatra", Jora told reporters here at base-camp. A total of 3.5 lakh pilgrims have already been registered for the yatra which will conclude on August two on Raksha Bandhan. Geared up to ensure an incident-free and peaceful pilgrimage, CRPF has activated its security set-up and deployed 57 companies for security of the Yatra.

"As many as 57 security companies have been deployed for the yatra in Jammu and Kashmir," a senior CRPF officer told PTI. He said of these, 12 companies have been put on job for security of Amarnath yatra in Jammu region, while 45 companies have been deployed in the Valley for the yatra. The security set-up of CRPF for the yatra has been activated, including deployment at Bagwati Nagar base-camp in Jammu and other camps en route to Kashmir valley. Also an escort team is being provided to the Yatra convoy from Jammu to Baltal and Pahalgam base-camps in Kashmir valley apart from Highway security.

Few companies of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Border Security Force (BSF) have also been deployed in South Kashmir Himalayas — the abode of the cave shrine. Arrangements with regard to security and deployment of manpower for smooth conduct of the yatra were finalised at a high-level meeting yesterday under the chairmanship of Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar. The DGP sought reports from officers representing various agencies in the meeting and was briefed about the arrangements put in place for safety and security of the pilgrims.

Intelligence gathering and information sharing would help in foiling any ill design of the miscreants, for which frequent meetings should be convened at different levels, the DGP said. Joint control rooms established at different destinations on the twin routes would also help maintain coordination among the security agencies besides helping them in assessment of the situation on a daily basis, he said.

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