Pilgrimage preparations

Preparations for annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Swami Amarnath on the Himalayas in South Kashmir are afoot. The Government is seized of ensuring safe and smooth pilgrimage that begins on 25th of June and culminates on August 2, the Rakhsha Bandan day. Through a long history and unbroken tradition, the Hindus of Kashmir have maintained tracking over the Himalayan peaks to perform pilgrimage to the icy lingam representing Lord Shiva, who, according to the Shaivites of Kashmir, is the embodiment of three powers of creating, maintaining and destroying. Celebrated Kashmiri Hindu saints, sages, poets and writers have expressed deep veneration to Lord Shiva and ecstatically sung of his powers as sustainer of the universe. For centuries Shaivite philosophy ruled the hearts and minds of devotees and the tradition is scrupulously maintained to this day.
From a few hundred devotees and pilgrims to the holy cave in the past, the number has lately swollen to lakhs. Last year it was reported that six lakh pilgrims had visited the holy cave. Sudden increase in the number of visitors from all over the country has turned the cave shrine into an icon of national heritage. It naturally calls for ensuring safe passage and successful pilgrimage to the shrine for a large number of pilgrims. Thousands of people are associated with the pilgrimage and to them it is a source of livelihood as well. In a scenario of turmoil and disturbance that has taken the state into its grip during past two decades, and also some ugly incidents that happened with the pilgrimage at one or two times, these have made the government step in and ensure security and safety of the pilgrims. As part of the track over which the pilgrims have to move has been partially infested with militants, therefore, police, paramilitaries and the army have to be deployed under a well pre-meditated plan to take charge of ensuring security at the heights of the mountains, at base camps and all along the National Highway from Pathankot to Baltal or Nunwan, the two base camps. This is a stupendous task. The State Police and the Home Ministry have joined heads to chalk out the plan of providing security in all its dimensions. Consequently, the Home Ministry has agreed to provide additional 74 companies of CRPF for this particular purpose and for the duration of the pilgrimage only. The deployment of additional para-militaries will begin from the middle of June when snow is cleared from the base camps. In addition, the local police and some army contingents will also join the main security arrangement build up. According to knowledgeable sources the army will be asked to man the heights along the mountain track and the police and CRPF will be deployed along the national highway and at the base camps. This seems a satisfactory strategy specific for the current year’s pilgrimage programme. It will be noted that the Government had already withdrawn the battalions of CRPF previously deployed in the valley and other places and their place was taken by the BSF. The Home Ministry is reported to have made it clear to the State authorities that the 74 companies committed to join the Amarnath pilgrimage security arrangement will be withdrawn immediately after the pilgrimage ends on August 2 because the force is needed to be deployed in Maoist infested areas of Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
The point to be noted with satisfaction is that the government has not left anything to chance as does often happen. The type of terrorism that has been unleashed by our enemies is totally unpredictable. Nobody can foretell where and how the terrorists might strike because surprise attacks and hit and run are the tactics of terrorists engaged in a proxy war. Militancy might have come down in Kashmir in comparison to what its level was a few years ago but the source from where it springs remains as volatile as ever and even much more explosive in view of increased lawlessness in that part of the world. Therefore the government has rightly decided not to take any chance. It is a welcome step and the noteworthy thing is that the concerned agencies have woken up at right time to take all preventive and precautionary measures.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here