Terror attack fails to dampen spirits of Amarnath pilgrims

Terror attack fails to dampen spirits of Amarnath pilgrims

Over 22000 yatries set off for Cave Shrine

Terror attack fails to dampen spirits of Amarnath pilgrims
Unfazed by last night's terror attack in which seven yatries were killed, more than 22000 pilgrims Tuesday set off for the Amarnath Cave Shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas amid tight security arrangements.

An official spokesperson said chanting 'Bam Bam Bhole', 3289 pilgrims comprising 2283 men, 756 women and 250 sadhus and sadhvis set for the arduous trek from both the traditional Pahalgam and shorter Baltal routes from Jammu.

He said by 10.30 am 18838 pilgrims had left for the Cave Shrine from Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Panjtarni and Baltal camps. "The yatra is progressing smoothly and the terror attack has not dampened the spirits of the pilgrims," he said.

In the aftermath of the attack, J&K Governor NN Vohra, who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), convened an emergency security review meeting on Tuesday morning where security aspects of the yatra were reviewed. "It was decided that the pilgrimage shall continue without any diminution whatsoever and this decision was conveyed to all Camp Directors and to the Yatri Niwas, Jammu, from where pilgrims leave for the Valley in a convoy every morning," the spokesperson said.

Even as the Central and State governments are trying to defend failure on their part to avert the terror attack on Amaranth Yatra, Vohra had already raised concerns over arrangements for the annual pilgrimage.

Official documents reveal that the governor had expressed concern over the arrangements, prior to the attack, as 14 yatries had died for one reason or the other in the first 12-days of the annual pilgrimage taken by thousands and acknowledged widely as a potent symbol of religious harmony. Since the beginning of the yatra on June 29, more than 146000 pilgrims have paid obeisance at the cave shrine.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat, who rushed to Srinagar in the afternoon to review the security arrangements in the wake of a deadly attack on the pilgrims, held detailed meetings with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Governor Vohra and senior commanders of the army, defence spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said.

"General Rawat was briefed by the Chinar Corps commander on the prevailing security situation in the Valley and later he held meeting with State Chief Secretary and the DGP," he said.

Security agencies have launched a manhunt for Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Ismail, a Pakistani terrorist, and two others who masterminded Monday's attack on the yatra bus in which seven pilgrims were killed and 19 others injured.

The bus, bearing Gujarat registration number, was on way to Jammu when the attack took place at around 8:25 pm on Monday. Sources said strict instructions have been given to the security agencies not to allow any unregistered pilgrims to proceed towards the Amarnath shrine from the base camps.

"The bus which was attacked was not part of the Amarnath yatra convoy and was plying after the 7 pm deadline imposed by the security officials on the movement of the yatra vehicles," they said.

"More than 100 empty cartridges were found at the attack site, which indicates that the terrorists had come with an intention to kill as many pilgrims as possible," sources added.

Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh termed the attack a "big security lapse", saying: "We have to enquire why the bus was allowed to move after sunset. We were told there was a tyre burst and the driver took time to replace it."

Meanwhile, Monday's terror attack evoked widespread condemnation from political and social circles across Kashmir on Tuesday.
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