New Delhi: A day before Amit Shah is set to make his first visit to Kashmir after taking oath as Home Minister, security agencies in the Valley have drafted a detailed plan for the security of Amarnath pilgrims.
Sources have told News18 that this year's yatra will see highest ever deployment — roughly 42,000 paramilitary soldiers, apart from army and J&K police personnel — to secure lakhs of expected yatris over 46 days beginning from July 1.
According to sources in the Home Ministry, the agencies have highlighted two big security concerns — a vehicle-borne IED attack and an attack in area around Jawahar tunnel — and the prepared detailed responses to both.
The first threat, of a vehicle-borne IED, comes from the experience of the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in which 40 paramilitary soldiers were killed and eight were injured. Another threat comes from a subsequent incident that occurred on June 17 when militants triggered an IED hidden in a vehicle near an army patrol in the militancy-hit Pulwama district of south Kashmir. Eight army personnel and two civilians were injured in the attack which was carried out roughly 27 km from the site of the February 14 attack.
Agencies are also, based on specific inputs, re-evaluating the security arrangements in and around the Jawahar tunnel which connects Jammu and Kashmir.
Among other threats that the agencies have discussed and prepared for are grenade attacks, abduction of pilgrims and strikes by terrorists impersonating as security personnel.
To deal with the terror threats, forces have deployed, apart from regular units, six specialised Quick Action Teams (QATs) which are equipped with ultra-modern gadgets and have been part of over 30 successful counter-insurgency operations since January 1 last year. The agencies have also pressed in choppers and UAVs to carry out air-borne surveillance.
"We are carrying out night area domination exercises, we have our mobile check posts, QATs and anti-sabotage checks. We have also ensured that all buses of yatris have RFID tags and the yatris have their own bar codes so that all the information about movement of civilians can be monitored and suspicious movement can be detected at once," said a senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs, who did not wish to be named.
Around 42,000 security personnel have been deployed at various points on the Amarnath Yatra routes, the official told News18. This is a huge jump over the deployment in 2018 (around 32,000), in 2017 (30,000), in 2016 (18,000) or in 2015 (15,000). Several extra companies of ITBP, SSB and CISF have been pressed into service to secure this year's yatra, the official said.
"The extra force has been deployed keeping in mind recent grenade lobbing incidents which, according to our inputs, are being carried out by new recruits at the terror outfits active in the Valley as a means of proving their loyalty," the official said.
Amarnath Yatra has a history of being in the crosshairs of terror outfits in the Valley. In 2017, terrorists targeted a bus of yatris returning from the Amarnath cave, in which 12 civilians were killed. In 2018, a suspicious blast was reported from a bus, which is believed to have been the result of a grenade attack. One yatri had suffered injuries in the attack.
List of Attacks on Amarnath Pilgrims
July 21, 2001: Terrorists attack Sheshnag yatri camp lob grenades and then fire upon yatris. Ten civilians and two police personnel are killed. Fourteen civilians and five police personnel sustain injuries.
August 6, 2002: In an early morning attack, terrorists lob grenade at Nunwan base camp in which 9 civilians are killed and 29 others are injured.
July 3, 2012: Terrorists lob grenade on bus full of yatris. Three civilians are killed, six injured.
July 21, 2007: Terrorists lob grenade on a langar run by a local gurudwara, 23 injured.
July 10, 2017: Terrorists target a bus of yatris returning from cave in Anantnag, killing 12 civilians.
July 1, 2018: Suspicious blast in a bus injures one yatri.