The annual Amarnath Yatra began on Wednesday under a tight security cover, with the first batch of 1,272 pilgrims leaving the Jammu base camp for the cave shrine, located at an altitude of 3,338-metres.
A cavalcade of 53 vehicles carrying the devotees under tight security was flagged off by Tourism and Culture Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora from the Amarnath base camp at Bagwatinagar Yatri Niwas at approximately 5 am. Security is being provided by the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Troops and the Jammu and Kashmir police.
Undeterred by the tense situation and curfew in the Kashmir valley, authorities allowed the convoy to leave for the cave shrine in Anantnag district of south Kashmir.
The batch, comprising 566 men, 230 women, 32 children and 444 sadhus, left for Pahalgam and Baltal base camps in Kashmir valley.
"Adequate security arrangements have been deployed all the way, from Jammu to the cave shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir, for the safety and security of the pilgrims. The yatra has begun today and everything is going on well," Jora told reporters.
Army and paramilitary forces have been deployed along the highway for the smooth passage of the pilgrims.
"There is no threat to the yatra as we have not received any specific input with regard to targeting Amarnath yatra," Deputy Inspector General of Police (Jammu-Kathua range) Farooq Khan said.
All security agencies were well coordinated and a four-tier security set-up has been established along the Indo-Pak border to prevent any terrorist strike on the yatra during its passage on the highway close to the border, he said.
Road Opening Parties, Quick Reaction Teams and Mobile Rescue Teams have been positioned at several places to deal with exigency situations, he said. The yatra, which will leave for the cave shrine of Lord Shiva from its base camps on Thursday, will conclude on August 25.
Over 2.5 lakh pilgrims have been registered for the pilgrimage at 121 designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir bank across the country. Registration of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath yatra, which commenced from June 5, will continue till August 20.