The first batch of the Amarnath Yatra has been flagged off by. Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, B V R Subramanyam, advisors to the Governor, B B Vyas and K Vijay Kumar were also present during the flagging off.
Vijay Kumar said that the Yatra is a significant one and an annual event. With the cooperation of the public, all security and development agencies have put in place a scheme to try and address the concerns of the yatris. We will ensure smooth flow of traffic as well, Kumar also said.
The CRPF said that all security arrangements are in place. Latest technology, vehicles and manpower are in use. There is no specific threat as such, but we are ready to combat any kind of attack, the IG of the CRPF also said.
The yatris have gathered in large numbers. They said that they are happy to be present and added that they have no fear. All security arrangements are up to the mark, the yatris also said.
As part of the security arrangements, no vehicles carrying the Yatris will be allowed to start from the base camps in Pahalgam and Baltal after 2 pm. This is being done to ensure that the they reach the Jawahar tunnel, which connects Srinagar to Jammu by 7 pm.
All vehicles would have RIFD tags to help the CRPF and J&K police personnel to track their movements. There would be at least 28,000 security personnel, mostly from the CRPF to guard the Yatra.
Meanwhile, a new audio, purportedly released by Hizbul Mujahideen, has surfaced in Srinagar assuring Amarnath pilgrims they have nothing to fear as long as they visit Kashmir only to fulfill their religious duties.
The voice is purportedly that of Riyaz Naikoo, the commander of the terror group. But the authenticity of the voice clip could not be confirmed.
The 15-minute clip, which circulated on WhatsApp, carried Naikoo's picture.
It welcomed Kashmiri Pandits back to their ancestral homes but warned against any plan to set up separate settlements for them in the Valley.
"Our fight is only against India's occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. We have nothing against the people of India or Amarnath pilgrims who come here for religious reasons. However, they should not connect the pilgrimage to the political issue of Kashmir," Naikoo said.
The Hizb commander said the pilgrims need not to worry about their safety and they can visit Kashmir without security.
"We have hundreds of thousands of Biharis (non-locals) who come to Kashmir as labourers or beggars and are found in every nook and corner of the Valley. Has there been any instance of them being harassed in so many years? Their girls and young women can be seen begging but no one has been ever touched," he said.