The back-to-back meetings to discuss the pilgrimage, scheduled to begin on June 30 after two years, follow several targeted killings, including of Kashmiri Pandits, in the union territory.Jammu and Kashmir Lt Gov Manoj Sinha and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla as well as senior officials attended both the meetings. National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, Army chief Gen Manoj Pande and Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief Dilbag Singh attended the meeting to discuss security arrangements for the pilgrimage.
Top officials of the Ministries of Health, Telecom, Road Transport, Civil Aviation, IT took part in the meeting to discuss logistics for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at an altitude of 3,888 metres.
The ‘yatra’, which presents a big security challenge for the government, could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was cut short in 2019 just before the abrogation of Article 370.
About three lakh pilgrims are likely to take part in the ‘yatra’, which is expected to end on August 11.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags will be given to each pilgrim to monitor their movements and security, officials said. Earlier, RFID tags were given only to the vehicles of the pilgrims.
About 12,000 paramilitary personnel (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and Kashmir Police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes, one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said.
Drone cameras will help the security forces to ensure protection of the pilgrims.
There has been a spurt in attacks on non-Muslims and outsiders living in the Kashmir valley since the abrogation of the Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019.
The review comes following a spate of killings in the union territory. On May 12, Rahul Bhat, a government employee, was killed by terrorists inside his office in Budgam district. A day after the death of the Kashmiri Pandit, police constable Reyaz Ahmad Thokar was shot dead by terrorists at his residence in Pulwama district.
Last week, four pilgrims were killed and at least 20 injured when the bus they were travelling in caught fire near Katra in Jammu. Police suspect a sticky bomb might have been used to trigger the fire.
Bhat’s killing triggered protests by members of the Kashmiri Pandit community who staged staged protests in the Valley demanding enhanced security and transfer of government employees to safer locations.
The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomerate of major J-K parties, on Sunday urged Kashmiri Pandit employees not to leave the Valley as it was their home and it would be painful for all .