On Monday, seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed while nineteen including three policemen were injured after suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants attacked a yatri bus and a police party in Anantnag along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in south Kashmir. One of those injured is still in a critical state.
But as thousands of pilgrims choose to place courage ahead of fear to carry on with this year's yatra, it can't be ruled out that the attack was completely unavoidable.
Among the doubts and concerns over security that have mushroomed after Monday night's attack, there are certain questions that seek immediate attention.
Was the bus registered with the Amarnath shrine board? If not, why?
Pilgrims and the vehicles they use are required to be registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board, . Then how was the bus, which had a Gujarat number plate (GJ09 Z9976), allowed to ply?
It is also unclear who owns the chartered bus, the sale of which to a new owner is said to be incomplete. According to The Indian Express, the bus was owned by Sanjay Patel who had sold it to Jawahar Desai of Om Travels in Valsad.
How did the bus manage to go through multiple security checkpoints despite no registration?
Around 60 unregistered pilgrims visited the shrine, and no one noticed? The people who were attacked on Monday night had completed the pilgrimage two days ago and took a detour for sightseeing. The bus left the Baltal base camp, where there is high security, and moved on the heavily-guarded national highway, apparently not being checked even once.
Why was the bus allowed to travel after sunset, a violation of the standard operating procedure?
Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh admitted to lapses, and said officials would investigate why the bus was allowed to travel after 5 pm. The security protocol for the annual pilgrimage bars vehicles from moving after sundown.
Why was a police patrol vehicle travelling ahead of an unregistered pilgrim bus?
Security is provided only to registered vehicles. The presence of the police van, which was also targeted, has raised questions whether it was guarding the bus or just happened to travel ahead of it.
Why did the police fail to secure the route despite intelligence warnings about possible terror attacks?
Two days before the pilgrimage started, Kashmir inspector general of police Muneer Khan wrote a letter, reported Hindustan Times, warning of terrorists planning a “sensational strike” to target Amarnath pilgrims to whip up communal passions. He had specifically mentioned that the terrorists could fire at pilgrim vehicles; which is what happened in Botengoo village.
The Jammu and Kashmir government did the right thing on Tuesday by announcing Rs 6 lakh as compensation to families of deceased victims. However, they can't deny the fact that they will need to give some answers.
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2017 17:26 PM