With less than 10 days left for the start of annual Amarnath Yatra, the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government said there is a terror threat to the nearly two-month-long pilgrimage and that additional security forces are being deployed to provide safety.
"There is terror threat to Amarnath Yatra," Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Shinde said the government was taking precautions and sending additional forces to ensure safety and security of all pilgrims visiting the 13,500 feet high Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir. "All efforts will be made to ensure security of every pilgrim," he said. The Yatra is due to commence on June 28.
Shinde's assessment came even as the J and K government declared the entire pilgrimage route in the state as "highly prone" to terrorist attacks and directed security forces to augment their vigil. The army on Monday said it has received inputs that terrorists might try to disrupt the Yatra.
The security arrangements for the Yatra also came up for a detailed review at the unified headquarters meeting chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar.
Last year, an estimated 6.2 lakh pilgrims had a glimpse of the ice stalagmite structure inside the cave which devotees believe symbolises the mythological powers of Lord Shiva.
"Considering the security scenario, topography of the yatra area, high potential of terrorist attacks on the yatras to create law and order situation throughout the state and the country, sensitive nature of the yatra, and the high publicity the yatra generates, the entire yatra area is highly prone to terrorist attacks," the J and K home department said in a circular issued to all agencies concerned.
The circular, issued last week, directed the army, the police and other security forces to take action as per their standard operating procedures in the matter to ensure safe pilgrimage.
"Directions (and) inputs received in this regard from intelligence agencies and Unified HQ should be promptly shared with other security forces (and) intelligence agencies and necessary action should be initiated to prevent any mishap."
The security agencies have also been directed to carry out aerial surveillance of the yatra area and deploy spotters in adequate numbers at the camps.
"Besides adequate deployment of security forces at the yatra camps, aerial surveillance of the yatra area may be undertaken and spotters may be deployed in adequate numbers at the yatra camps, particularly at the Holy Cave Shrine area to spot unwanted activities (and) suspicious characters."
Amarnath yatra over the years has remained by and large peaceful barring three terrorist strikes -- one each in 2000, 2001 and 2002 -- that left 36 pilgrims and dozen others dead.