Barring inclement weather killing over a dozen pilgrims in flash-floods triggered by a cloudburst last month, the annual Amarnath Yatra passed off peacefully, though only over 3 lakh visited the Holy Cave against the expected six to eight lakh pilgrims this year.
The authorities are breathing easy as massive security arrangements apparently helped avert any militant strike on pilgrims.
The yatra was held amid unusually “higher threat perception” to the pilgrims following a spate of targeted militant killings since April that left a dozen dead, including members of the minority Hindu community in the Valley.
The “Chhari Mubarak” silver mace reached the holy cave shrine of Lord Shiva in Kashmir Himalayas for final pooja, coinciding with the Raksha Bandhan, marking the formal end of this year’s Amarnath Yatra on Thursday.
The 43-day-long annual Amarnath Yatra commenced physically from June 30 after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.
On July 8, a cloudburst struck near the cave shrine causing flash floods at tented accommodation of pilgrims killing 15 yatris and injuring 55 others besides washing away a major portion of the track.
It was a hectic time for the government forces and other agencies that launched a massive rescue operation and built alternative routes working day and night for several days to make the yatra resume smoothly.
The authorities had to suspend the yatra for three days from the shortest route Baltal and for four days from the traditional Pahalgam route after the cloudburst.
Following the incident, the authorities took all precautionary measures and yatris were not allowed to move whenever the erratic weather struck. There was little respite from rain for many days.
As many as 47 pilgrims —14 from shortest route of Baltal and 33 from traditional Pahalgam route also died of different ailments and cardiac arrest caused due to high altitude climate conditions during the 43-day-long pilgrimage.
Thirty-seven Amarnath Yatra pilgrims including five women were injured in a road accident at Qazigund on Srinagar-Jammu National highway on July 14.
The local people helped security forces in shifting the injured to nearby hospitals for treatment, depicting the humanity and hospitality of the people of Kashmir.
Of the 3, 03,502 yatris who visited the cave, 32,892 in 5,902 sorties were taken to the Himalayan shrine from the Baltal route in Ganderbal district by helicopters. The services were also made available from the traditional Pahalgam route.
For the first time the yatra went Hi-tech with Arbiter Technology Cards or “Searching Bands” to the pilgrims this year.
The Yatris with these “Searching Bands” which were linked with the Aadhar card helped them to remain in touch with their group even if one lost track during the trekking on the high ridges.
This year keeping in view the militants threats, unprecedented security arrangements were put in place on Jammu-Srinagar national highway from Jagti Mandi yatra camp in Jammu upto Pahalgam in south Kashmir and Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
All routes leading to the cave were plugged by the heavy contingents of security forces including Army, BSF, CRPF, J-K Police and other agencies. (Agencies)