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PHOTOS: Amarnath yatra amidst Uttarakhand fears

July 02, 2013 09:05 IST

PHOTOS: Amarnath yatra amidst Uttarakhand fears

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The annual Amarnath Yatra is on amid tight security, with pilgrims from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps starting their journey for the 3880-metre-high cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Amidst chants of 'Bam Bam Bole', the first batch of pilgrims started on the arduous 45-km trek from traditional Pahalgam route, and 13-km from Baltal simultaneously, in the wee hours of Friday, official sources said.

Over 37,000 pilgrims have paid obeisance at the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas in the last four days even as the fifth batch of 2,168 devotees left for their journey from Jammu on Monday.

Of these, 35,627 pilgrims paid obeisance of the holy ice-lingam at the cave shrine till last evening, while over 1,600 had darshan on Monday morning.

Besides, 1044 pilgrims, flew in choppers to the cave shrine.

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Image: A sadhu smokes while on his way to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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A convoy of 80 vehicles carrying 2,168 pilgrims left from Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu at around 5.35 am for twin base camps of Pahalagam and Baltal Kashmir.

The batch included 1,525 men, 460 women and 35 children, apart from 148 priests, they said.

With Monday’s batch, a total of 9,974 pilgrims have left Jammu base camp for Amarnath so far.

Besides, a fresh batch of 6,381 pilgrims left Baltal camp for Amarnath on Monday.

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Image: The cave shrine at Amarnath
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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PHOTOS: Amarnath yatra amidst Uttarakhand fears

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The Uttarakhand floods have caused a fear psychosis among Pune tourists.

Now when the bookings for Amarnath tours have begun, the tours and travel operators in the city said that the number of inquiries has come down by almost 50-60 per cent compared to last year.

Rajesh Deshpande of Jayshree Travels told newspaper DNA, “The number of inquiries for Amarnath tour has dipped considerably. Now people think that anything can happen if you visit the Himalayas. Every year my travel agency used to send two to three batches on Amarnath tour and each batch consisted of 40 to 60 people.”

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Image: Porters carrying a pilgrim to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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PHOTOS: Amarnath yatra amidst Uttarakhand fears

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Heightened security measures have been put in place for the 55-day Yatra following intelligence inputs that militants might attempt to target the pilgrimage, sources said.


State police and the Central Reserve Police Force have been deployed all along the twin routes to ensure safety and security of the pilgrims, they said.

For the first time, the access control agencies are carrying out thorough checks of the pilgrims and their documentation before allowing them to proceed.

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Image: Porters carrying pilgrims to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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PHOTOS: Amarnath yatra amidst Uttarakhand fears

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With the heavy rush of unregistered Amarnath yatris making way to Pahalgam and Baltal base camps, the state tourism department has started issuing on-the-spot-permissions to tourists and pilgrims.

"In order to facilitate the tourists and locals to visit to Pahalgam and Sonmarg, the Department of Tourism has started on-the-spot-permissions at Tourist Reception Centre Srinagar," an official release of the tourism department said. 

The release said tourists and locals other than Amarnath yatris, who want to visit these places for a day trip, should contact the Tourism Department to obtain the permission in order to avoid any inconvenience. 

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Image: Porters carrying a pilgrim to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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Official sources said the decision to issue permission letters to tourists for visiting Pahalgam and Sonamarg was taken as large number of unregistered Amarnath pilgrims were reaching these places as tourists and trying to proceed for the yatra.

More than 23,000 unregistered pilgrims or those with registration for later dates were turned back from various access control gates in the first two days of the yatra.

Sources said a significant number of pilgrims succeeded in breaking through the access control gate at Chandanwari on first day of the pilgrimage in Friday.

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Image: Pilgrim trekking their way to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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The board, in a release on Sunday, said it has set up 14 current registration counters at Pantha Chowk and TRC Nowgam for unregistered pilgrims to get registration.

Access control from the base camps has been strengthened this year on the directions of Supreme Court which endorsed the recommendations of the Special High Powered Committee, including not allowing any unregistered pilgrims to proceed towards the holy cave shrine.

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Image: The Amarnath Yatra base camp at Baltal
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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While the helpline established by the SASB is at best dysfunctional with no information provided even about the yatra, the Chief Executive Officer and Additional CEO have refused to entertain queries from the media personnel.

"I cannot be answering questions from media every other minute. Please have mercy on us. We will be issuing press release every day in the evening," CEO of the SASB N K Choudhary said.

A valid health certificate has been made mandatory while only pilgrims between 13 years and 75 years of age will be allowed to undertake the Yatra following high number of deaths last year.

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Image: This couple was part of the first batch of pilgrims
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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The Jammu and Kashmir government has started pre-paid auto rickshaw service in Jammu.

"The Motor Vehicles Department and the Auto Rickshaw Unions started pre-paid Auto Rickshaw booths at four major points of the city-ISBT at Narwal, Bhagwati Nagar, Railway Station and General Bus Stand in Jammu," an official spokesman said.

This is being done with a view that the pilgrims visiting to the city are not overcharged, he said.

The pre-paid booths have been started where the passengers can hire the vehicles on point to point rates which already stand rationalised by the Motor Vehicles Department and displayed prominently on the pre-paid auto rickshaw booths, the spokesman said.

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Image: Pilgrims make a stop-over before continuing their journey to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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Dedicated to the Lord Shiva, the Amarnath cave shrine is located at 13,000 feet above the sea level.

The distance from north Kashmir's Baltal base camp to the cave shrine is around 14 km and the pilgrims are able to return after 'Darshan' the same day.

However, the traditional south Kashmir route from Nunwan base camp to the cave is 45 km passing through Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni halting stations.

The one-way journey to the shrine on this route takes three days

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Image: Two Sadhus begin their journey to the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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