Srinagar: Protected by multiple levels of security, the 40-day Amarnath pilgrimage began from here today with the first batch of 2,280 devotees leaving for the high altitude shrine.
Minister of State for Tourism Priya Sethi and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh flagged off the convoy to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in the south Kashmir Himalayas at about 5.30 am.
As the 72-vehicle convoy left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas here amid chants of “Jai Bholay Nath” and “Bum Bum Bholay”, officials said intelligence warning had prompted the “highest level” of security arrangements.
These included satellite tracking systems, jammers and bulletproof bunkers, dog squads, CCTV cameras and quick response teams in addition to thousands of security personnel guarding the route in view of the increased threat perception and violence in the Valley.
The convoy of the first batch of pilgrims, including 1,811 men, 422 females and 47 sadhus, was escorted by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicles, an official said.
While 698 left for the Baltal basecamp in 25 vehicles, 1,535 pilgrims and 47 sadhus left in 47 vehicles for Pahalgam base camp from the Jammu base camp. Singh said all security arrangements had been put in place to ensure an incident free yatra.
“The highest level of the security measures have been put in place. All important aspects like security, arrangements necessary for the road journey and base camp have been well taken care of,” the deputy chief minister added.
S N Shrivastava, special director general, CRPF, had said yesterday the annual yatra was a “big challenge” and elaborate security was in place to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.