Poonch: In the wake of a series of terrorist attacks on security forces in the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu and Kashmir government has for the first time decided to keep the historic Mughal Road open as an alternate route for the pilgrims coming for the annual Amarnath yatra.
Kashmir has witnessed two terror attacks in recent times. In one of them, five CRPF personnel and a Jammu and Kashmir police personnel was killed in Anantnag district. In a separate attack, two soldiers were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on an army patrol in Arihal of Pulwama district.
Militants have also carried out several attacks on pilgrims. On 10 July, 2017, terrorists killed seven pilgrims and injured many others as they struck at a bus near Khanabal in Anantnag district. On 25 July, 2017, Hansraj Ahir, the then Minister of State for Home Affairs at the time, said, “From 1990 till date, 36 terrorist attacks have been reported on Amarnath yatris, in which 53 were killed, and 167 were injured.”
The spate of terror attacks has forced the state as well as central government to chalk out a strategy for the smooth conduct of the Amarnath pilgrimage that will start on 1 July. Even home minister Amit Shah is expected to visit the holy cave on 30 June, where, besides paying obeisance at the cave shrine, he will review the security arrangements for pilgrims.
The Jammu-Srinagar national highway is used as the traditional road by the pilgrims to reach the Kashmir region, where the cave is located. After reaching Kashmir, there are two routes from where the actual pilgrimage on foot or on the backs of ponies starts. These include Pahalgam-Chandanwari route and Sonamarg-Baltal route.
On the other hand, Mughal Road, that is situated on the Pir Panjal mountain range, is the same route that was used by Mughal emperors to reach Kashmir. Pilgrims will have to travel from Jammu to Rajouri, and then to Poonch. The road leads to Shopian in the Kashmir region.
Rahul Yadav, Deputy Commissioner of the Poonch district, said that the road was not in a good state. “Recently, the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir held a meeting and reviewed the condition of the road. We are now improving its quality,” said Yadav.
Temporary shelters and toilets are also being constructed along the Mughal Road.
Many government departments are working in tandem so that the road is in good shape before the start of the pilgrimage in the first week of July. The Department of Science and Technology has been entrusted with the task of installing at least 1,000 solar lights en-route to the pilgrimage, work for which is going on in full swing.
Governor Satya Pal Malik also conducted an aerial survey of the traditional pilgrimage route along the Baltal-Domel-Sangam-Panjtarni-Sheshnag-Chandanwari-Pahalgam axis to gain a firsthand view of the existing snow accumulation levels.
Sanjeev Verma, Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, said that Mughal Road would be used as an alternate route for the annual pilgrimage. “Mobile bio-toilets are being installed on the way from Jammu to Banihal on the traditional route (Jammu-Srinagar national highway) and Jammu to Pir Ki Gali at Mughal Road for ensuring hassle-free movement of pilgrims from both the routes”.
He added that district administrations in both Jammu and Kashmir regions are geared up to ensure that everything is in place for the smooth stay of pilgrims in the state.
Directorate of Tourism has also made arrangements at the Yatri Niwas, Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu, where the pilgrims will make their first halt before proceeding towards the holy shrine. The authorities have also decided to geo-tag the vehicles of pilgrims which will help the authorities to trace them in case of any difficulty or deviation from their scheduled route.
BVR Subrahmanyam, chief secretary with the Jammu and Kashmir government, in a review meeting for the Amarnath pilgrimage has asked the police and district administration to make foolproof security arrangements for the pilgrims before 25 June.
(The author is Ludhiana-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2019 18:24:08 IST