First batch of 2,995 pilgrims leaves for holy cave

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, June 27: Amid chanting of Bum Bum Bholey, the first batch of 2,995 pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas, base camp of Amarnath pilgrims, for holy cave situated at a height of 3880 metres in deep Himalayas of Lidder Valley in South Kashmir district of Anantnag under multi tier security arrangements.
The Yatra was flagged off by Advisors to the Governor, B B Vyas and K Vijay Kumar in presence of Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam  this morning.
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Hundreds of yatris including men and women drawn from different parts of country were in high spirits and in a jubilant mood. As the first vehicle left for the holy cave at 4.30 am chanting the slogans Bum Bum Bholey and Bharat Mata Ki Jai. The yatris were also seen dancing to the tune of drum beats.
To avert any untoward incident, the Government has made fool proof security measures for the pilgrims this year in view of the threats by militants. For the first time this year the Radio Frequency (RF) tags were installed on Amarnath bound pilgrims’ vehicles and CRPF Motor Squads were also escorting the yatris up to base camps to avert any untoward incident.
As the leaders of some political parties including NC, MLA, Devender Rana and BJP, MLC Vikram Randhawa were present during flagging off ceremony, the senior leaders of BJP and former Ministers from the Party including its State president skipped the flagging off ceremony.
The BJP which increased its tally from one MLA in 2002 to 11 MLAs in 2008 and 25 in 2014 by remaining at forefront in the Amarnath land row agitation of 2008 has, however, not bothered to participate in the flagging off ceremony of the yatra this time.
Speaking during the flagging off of the  yatra, Advisor to Governor, B B Vyas said that   coordinated efforts have been put in place by the concerned agencies to ensure smooth and safe conduct of the Yatra this year.
“Amarnath Yatra is a very significant annual event. With the cooperation of public, security agencies and development agencies, we have put a scheme in place and are trying our best to address concerns of the yatris and ensure smooth flow of traffic,’’ another Advisor to Governor, Vijay Kumar said.
The pilgrims from across the country comprising a batch of 2,995 persons left the base camp at around 4.30 AM in a fleet of 109 vehicles including 57 HMVs, 52 LMVs and four motorcycles for onward journey to cave shrine through traditional Pahalgam and Baltal routes.
Around 1,904 pilgrims opted for traditional Pahalgam route while 1,091 choose the Baltal route to reach the Himalayan cave shrine in South Kashmir. The batch comprised of 2,334 men, 520 women, 21 children and 120 Sadhus.
Talking to media persons soon after the flagging off of the yatra IG CRPF, A V Chauhan said Government will ensure fool proof security arrangements for the pilgrims. He said Army, CRPF and local police are making equal contribution in ensuring the security of pilgrims.
He said all the arrangements are in place and their efforts are that the yatra should be secure and safe this year. He said detectors have been installed on vehicles and in case a vehicle loses contact “we can locate it with the help of detectors.”
“There is fool proof security system in place to ensure security from ambush and attack and our jawans are ready to deal with any threat’’, he said. The jawans have been fully trained to meet with any eventuality and we are trying to make the best use of security apparatus, he added.
“For first time the motorcycle squad has been used by CRPF for quick action  and the motorcycle ambulances have been provided to reach those places where the four wheeler can’t go’’, he said.
However, the yatris including the female pilgrims and college going girls who left for the darshan of holy cave for the first time were high in spirits and did not bother for any threat.
An 21 member group of pilgrims from Behka, UP which included nine women mostly college going girl students were jubilant. “ We are not afraid of any thing including the militant threat as we are going to holy cave to pray for peace and brotherhood’’, said Sushila one of the members of the group.
Same were the views of Ram Dhan, a Sadhu from MP. He said why to be afraid of any threat as no one can harm them till Lord Shiva is there to take care of. “We will offer the prayers at holy cave for restoration of peace in the trouble torn Valley where members of Hindu –Muslim communities live like brothers prior to spurt of militancy’’, he added.
The yatris were also all praise for the arrangements made by the Government for them. Arun Kumar from Kanoj, UP heading a five member group, who is visiting the holy cave for the seventh time, said the arrangements especially the security Bandobast is very good this time.
Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag Mohammed Younis Malik who is also the Yatra Officer told Excelsior that all the pilgrims who left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu this morning reached the Nunwan Base camp by this evening.
He said all the arrangements for pilgrims are in place from Nunwan to holy cave and first batch will leave the Nunwan Base Camp early tomorrow morning.
The DC also convened a meeting of the officers at Anantnag today to review the arrangements and gave necessary instructions to them to ensure that no pilgrim faces any problem.
Meanwhile, the Divisional Administration, Tourism Department and other agencies associated with the yatra arrangements, besides the volunteers of Civil Defence have made adequate arrangements to provide lodging, transportation, medicare, food, and clean drinking water, sanitation etc at the Jammu base camp and along the yatra route for the convenience of the pilgrims.
Governor N N Vohra, who is chairman of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board reviewed the status of arrival of first batch of Yatris who left today in the morning from Yatri Base Camp Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu.
Umang Narula, Chief Executive Officer, SASB and Bhupinder Kumar, Additional Chief Executive Officer of the Board briefed the Governor during meeting.
Narula informed that first batch of Yatris left in two separate convoys for Baltal and Nunwan Base Camps to ease the movement of traffic. The Nunwan and Baltal bound convoys comprising of 113 vehicles and carrying 2995 Yatris left Jammu at 6:22 am. The Nunwan based convoy arrived at the destination at 6:25 pm, whereas the Baltal bound convoy crossed the Manigam transit camp at 6:20 pm and is likely to reach Baltal Base Camp by 9:30 pm.
It is pertinent to mention here that the number of Yatris who arrived at the Base Camps in convoys on a day before the commencement of Yatra -2018 was 2280.
The Governor exhorted close monitoring of the movement of convoys and stressed on timely arrival of Yatris in the Base Camps in order to ensure that Yatris take adequate rest before they embark on the Yatra next morning.
Meanwhile the BJP national general secretary, Ram Madhav along with Speaker State Assembly Dr Nirmal Singh visited holy cave to review the arrangements for the pilgrims.