Terrorists on Monday night killed seven Amarnath pilgrims, including six women, and injured 19 others as they struck at a bus in Kashmir’s Anantnag district, in the worst attack on the annual pilgrimage since the year 2001. Five of those killed were from Gujarat and two from Maharashtra.
Here are the latest updates:
IMAGE: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat meets Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in Srinagar. Photograph: Umar Ganie
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Tuesday met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the wake of the attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
The army chief who arrived in Srinagar on Tuesday was briefed by top army officials in the Valley about the overall security situation in Kashmir, especially in Anantnag.
Before meeting Mufti, the army chief met Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra.
Strongly condemning the attack, President Pranab Mukhejree asked the Jammu and Kashmir government and other agencies concerned to ensure that the guilty were brought to justice.
‘Such senseless acts of terrorism targeting innocent lives is (sic) an attack on the democratic values of the society and deserve to be universally condemned. They must be met with determination and collective action,’ the president said in a message to Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra.
He called upon the J&K government and all agencies concerned to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and law and order is maintained in the state.
‘I am deeply shocked and anguished to learn about the cowardly attack on Amarnath yatris in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir in which a number of innocent pilgrims lost their lives and several others were injured,’ he said.
Mukherjee said: ‘I am sure necessary steps are being taken to provide all possible aid to the bereaved families who have lost their near and dear ones as well as medical assistance to the injured.’
Undeterred by the attack, 22,633 devotees on Tuesday embarked on the pilgrimage amid stepped up security measures.
Escorted by CRPF and police personnel, 3,289 pilgrims, comprising 2,283 men, 756 women and 250 sadhus and sadhvis, left in 68 vehicles in a convoy from Jammu for Baltal and Pahalgam base camps on Tuesday morning, officials said.
“We have high degree of security for passage of convoy of the Amarnath yatra,” Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Zone, Mandeep Bhandari said.
Officials of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board on Tuesday informed Governor N N Vohra that ‘by 10.30 am, 18,838 pilgrims had left for the cave shrine from Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Panjtarni and Baltal yatra camps’.
As many as 5,556 pilgrims, who left Chandanwari, on Tuesday morning will need to halt en route and they will reach the shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas the next day, the officials said.
A piece of saffron cloth tied to his head and a prayer on his lips, an undeterred Amarnath pilgrim said there was only solution to terrorism in Kashmir -- and that was to visit the state over and over again.
Among a group of five men from Madhya Pradesh on a trek to the holy shrine, the Shiva devotee said they would continue with the journey despite the attack on Monday.
"Bholenath ki kripa rahi to agley saal phir ayengay (If Lord Shiva wants it, we will be back next year)," the pilgrims said when asked if they were going to turn back after the firing in Kashmir's Anantnag district.
IMAGE: Bajrang Dal members burn tyres and block a road following a bandh call in response against the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, in Jammu on Tuesday. Photograph: PTI Photo
Massive protests rocked Jammu division on Tuesday against the terrorist attack on pilgrims with protesters blocking highways at several places in Jammu, Udhampur, Kathua and Samba districts.
The protests were held by various parties including the Congress, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir strongly condemned the attack and described it as shocking and highly shameful.
Over 200 activists of the JKPCC thronged Rehari belt of Jammu city and held protests against the killing of pilgrims. They raised anti-government and anti-Bharatiya Janata Party slogans and demanded that the government should be sacked.
Led by JKNPP chairman Harsh Dev Singh, over 200 activists thronged Dogra chowk in the city and held demonstrations and sit-ins.
Amid anti-Pakistan sloganeering, they burnt tyres and demanded that the Mehbooba Mufti government be sacked for its total failure to protect the pilgrims.
The JKNPP leader demanded sacking of the Mehbooba Mufti government and crackdown on the terror infrastructure in Kashmir.
In Udhampur, JKNPP held protests and burnt tyres on the highway amid anti-government slogans.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal also held rallies in the city amid anti-government and anti-Pakistan slogans.
Angry protesters burnt Pakistani flags and demanded handing over Kashmir to the Army.
Several organisations of Kashmiri Pandits led by All Party Migrant coordination Committee also held demonstrations at Tawi bridge and blocked the highway in protest against the killings of pilgrims.
The National Conference led by provincial president Devender Singh Rana took out a protest rally on residency road and castigated the government for the alleged security failure.
IMAGE: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani visits the injured victims of the Amarnath Yatra who made their way home from Kashmir. Photograph: ANI/Twitter
The bodies of the seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir were brought to Gujarat’s Surat airport along with the injured people and their family members in an Indian Air Force plane.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani condemned the attack and said the country will never bow down to such an ideology.
The Gujarat government has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of each of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh each to the injured. Chief Minister Rupani and Patel will travel to Surat to receive the bodies and the injured people.
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that all steps would be taken to ensure there are no more terror attacks on Amarnath pilgrims.
Madhav, the party's point person on Jammu and Kashmir, said the security forces' operation against terrorists would continue and all efforts made to ensure that the Amarnath Yatra passes off peacefully.
"All steps will be taken to ensure that such an incident (terror attack) does not happen again," he said.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Range) Muneer Khan on Tuesday said Monday’s attack on Amaranth Yatra pilgrims was carried out by Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Khan said that the attack was masterminded by Pakistan terrorist Ismail.
IMAGE: Security force personnel checks the bag of a man near a base camp of the cave of Amarnath after seven Hindu pilgrims were killed by terrorists. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters
Despite the attack, a fresh batch of devotees on Tuesday left for the holy shrine of Amarnath. Central Reserve Police Force Inspector General (Operations) Zulfiqar Hasan assured that the investigation of the terror attack on the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims is being investigated and that the Yatra will go on peacefully. "It is being investigated by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. It will take some time but we will nab the culprits,” assured the IG (Operations) CRPF.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh called a high-level meeting to review the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the killing of Amarnath pilgrims by terrorists.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, top officials of the home ministry, intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces are attending the meeting. The meeting will take stock of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, security of Amarnath pilgrims and how to prevent such possible attacks in the future, official sources said.
A high-level central team led by Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir will also visit Jammu and Kashmir to assess the security of the pilgrimage to the high altitude cave shrine located in the Himalayas.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday saluted all sections of society of Jammu and Kashmir for unanimously condemning the terrorist attack on the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. “We have been deeply pained by the incident and the entire nation is in shock over it. The incident is unfortunate. I want to salute the people of Jammu and Kashmir, that all the sections of the state condemned the attack,” Rajnath said.
After the terror attack on the pilgrims of the Amarnath Yatra on Monday, the family of one of the deceased, Lakshben Patel, questioned the government’s security provisions and said that how would someone have faith in the nation’s security system.
Patel’s son Suresh said, “Despite the presence of security officials, terrorists attacked. What is the use of such security? They shouldn’t have taken a route where the officials were inactive.”
“If anyone can come and fire a bullet at you, then we are not safe,” he added.
-- Inputs from ANI and PTI