MHA calls high-level meet of J&K officials on April 26

Several other major issues to figure

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 22: Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba has called high-level meeting of top brass of Jammu and Kashmir from both civil and police administration in the Union capital on April 26 to review arrangements for holy annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine, which would start this year on June 28 and last two months. Other security related issues in J&K would also come up for discussion at the high-level.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Chief Secretary BB Vyas, Home Secretary RK Goyal, Director General of Police (DGP) Dr Shesh Pal Vaid and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Rohit Kansal have been called to the meeting in New Delhi to finalize security arrangements for Amarnath Ji pilgrimage in South Kashmir Himalayas from June 28 to August 26.
“The Centre and State Governments were likely to make extraordinary arrangements for annual pilgrimage this year well in advance in view of increased militancy in South Kashmir though large number of militants have been eliminated by security forces in this part of the Valley. Next couple of months could also see spurt in anti-militancy operations in this part of Kashmir,” sources said.
Asserting that entire exercise of security for the pilgrimage would come up for discussion at the high-level security review meeting, sources said the Centre don’t want to take any chance with safety of the yatris as last year, despite best possible security arrangements, the militants had managed to strike at a yatris bus, killing and injuring some of the pilgrims.
“The Centre Government wants fool-proof security arrangements for Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims, right from Lakhanpur to the cave shrine and, for the purpose, it was ready to give any number of additional para-military companies to the State Government for deployment along Jammu, Pathankot and Jammu-Srinagar National Highways, base camps of the shrine like Nunwan, Pahalgam in South Kashmir, Baltal in Ganderbal and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which will be trekked by the yatris.
Sources said the top officers of Jammu and Kashmir, both from civil and police administration, were likely to brief the Union Home Secretary on the arrangements that would be made for Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims and project their requirements from the Ministry of Home Affairs including number of additional companies to be deployed in the State for smooth yatra.
This year, according to sources, the deployment along yatra routes especially South Kashmir could be made well in advance to give enough time to the para-military personnel to conduct sanitization operations to secure the routes. They said the operations to flush out militants in South Kashmir could be intensified in the next couple of months before start of the pilgrimage to eliminate the militants, who could pose threat to the annual yatra.
This year, the period of yatra will be 20 days more than the previous year of 2017, which will be more challenging task for security forces. In 2017, the pilgrimage had last just 40 days while this year, duration of the yatra will be 60 days.
According to sources, some other “significant issues” pertaining to security arrangements in Jammu and Kashmir including situation in the hinterland, International Border, stepping up of anti-militancy operations and presence of civilians at the site of encounters with militants could also come up for discussion at the high-level meeting although arrangements for Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage would be the priority of the meeting, convened by the MHA.
Sources said not only the security arrangements, the Centre Government also wants Jammu and Kashmir to take all arrangements to encourage participation of yatris from all parts of the country in the pilgrimage. Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board (SASB) will also be asked to ensure that more pilgrims join the yatra.
Annual Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage would start on June 28 this year and conclude on August 26 on the occasion of Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.