Amarnath Yatra preparations: In wake of recent terror attacks, Mughal road to be used as alternate route for devotees

Arjun Sharma | May 17, 2019 | 4 min read


Arjun Sharma

Poonch: In the wake of series of terrorist attacks on security forces in the Kashmir valley, 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 terror attacks in recent times where five CRPF personnel and a J&K policeman was killed in Anantnag district while two soldiers were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on an army patrol in Arihal of Pulwama district.  

Attacks on pilgrims are also frequent in the area by militants. On July 10, 2017, terrorists killed seven pilgrims and injured many others as they struck at a bus near Khanabal in Anantnag district. On July 25, 2017, Economic Times quoted Hansraj Ahir, who was the Minister of State for Home at the time, “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 smooth conduct of the Amarnath pilgrimage that will start on July 1. Even the Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to visit the holy cave on June 30, where besides paying obeisance at the cave shrine he would review the security arrangements for pilgrims.

Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is used as the traditional road for the pilgrims to reach Kashmir region where the cave is located. After reaching Kashmir, there are two routes from where the actual pilgrimage on foot or pony 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 come from Jammu to Rajouri and then to Poonch. The road leads to Shopian in Kashmir region.

Rahul Yadav, Deputy Commissioner of 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 the quality of the road,” said Yadav.

Temporary shelters and toilets are also being constructed along the Mughal Road.

Many government departments are coordinating with various other departments 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 1000 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 at a distance of 30 kilometres each 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 J&K government, in a review meeting for the Amarnath pilgrimage had asked the police and district administration to make foolproof security arrangements for the pilgrims before June 25.

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