The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday asked pilgrims of the annual Amarnath Yatra and other tourists in the state to cut short their stay in the Valley after intelligence inputs said there were “specific terror threats”.
“Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible,” read the order issued by Principal Secretary (Home) Shaleen Kabra.
This came hours after security forces in the state alleged that Pakistan-based militants backed by the country’s Army were plotting attacks on the Amarnath Yatra, The Indian Express reported. The yatra is scheduled to end on August 15. Currently, the yatra is suspended till August 4 due to inclement weather.
Lieutenant General KJS Dhillon, who addressed a joint press conference along with Director General of Police Dilbag Singh in Srinagar, said the Indian Army had received specific reports of possible terror attacks on the pilgrims. “In the last three to four days, there were confirmed intelligence reports that terrorists backed by Pakistan and its Army are trying to disrupt Amarnath Yatra and based on that a thorough search was conducted,” NDTV quoted the Chinar Corps commander as saying. “We had major successes in these searches.”
The Army officer claimed “mines and ammunition, had been recovered” on the Amarnath Yatra route along with bombs. A landmine with Pakistan ordnance factory markings and an M-24 American sniper rifle with a telescopic sight were also discovered, the commander added.
Dhillon said during the searches the identities of militants were discovered along with caches of arms, ammunition and explosives. “We have eliminated most of the top leadership, but the job is still in progress,” The Indian Express quoted him as saying.
“The searches are still going on,” he added. “The Pakistan Army is desperate to disrupt peace. This will not be allowed to happen. No one can be allowed to disrupt the peace.”
The press conference and the government advisory came in the background of growing uneasiness in the Valley over increased deployment of troops. Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah called it an “unprecedented order”. “Although this unprecedented order would seem to suggest a genuine fear of a massive terror strike directed at Amarnath ji yatris or/and tourists this will do nothing to dampen the sense of fear and foreboding that prevails in the valley at the moment,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janta Party’s state President Ravinder Raina attempted to defuse tensions following the order. “Amarnath Yatra will continue till August 15 as per schedule,” ANI quoted him as saying. “Strong security measures have already been taken and there is no atmosphere of fear. All yatris can visit the holy shrine but advisory issued by the home department should be followed.”
Earlier in the week, the state police had ordered five zonal superintendents of police in Srinagar to submit details of mosques in areas under their jurisdiction. The orders had fuelled speculations in the Valley about the possibility of a prolonged law-and-order problem in Kashmir. On Tuesday, Governor Satya Pal Malik asked people not to pay heed to rumours about the government attempting to do away with the special status of the state, saying “everything is normal”.
Earlier on Friday, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said the decision to deploy extra paramilitary personnel in the state was based on the security situation in the Valley and requirements of rotation.