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Amarnath Yatra attack: When Islamic terror targeted Hindu pilgrims

The terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims on Monday in Anantnag district of Jammu & Kashmir has crossed all red lines. Seven Hindu pilgrims, most of them women, were killed and 11 others injured as the terrorists targeted a bus carrying Amarnath yatris on Monday evening after they attacked a combined checkpoint of STF, SOG and CRPF in Khannabal. The attack on the Hindu devotees is barbaric, painful and dastardly to say the least.

The security forces suspect that the attack is a handiwork of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. It is believed that 3-5 Pakistan backed terrorists led by one Ismael belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the attack. So far no terror outfit has officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack was carried out despite extra security was provided for the yatra this year. Reports suggest that there was an intelligence warning regarding a terror attack, which prompted the authorities to mobilise “highest level” of security measures, including the satellite tracking. But despite all these the attack took place.

According to CRPF DG RR Bhatnagar, the bus in which the yatris was travelling was neither part of the convoy nor registered with the shrine board. “Further, the driver had floated rules for the pilgrimage which clearly states that no vehicle should ply on the highway after 7 PM,” Bhatnagar said.

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But how and why the necessary safety norms were violated are matters of investigation and those who have erred must be punished.

Amidst the tragedy, it has become clear that the Amarnath pilgrims are the soft target of Islamic terrorists who want to bleed India with a thousand cuts. It is the collective responsibilities the Central government, the Jammu & Kashmir government and the security forces to bring the perpetrators of the heinous attack to justice the earliest and make sure that there should not be no such attack in the time to come.

The attack is the second major terror strike on the Amarnath yatris since the terrorism raised its head in the valley in 1990. It could be noted that Amarnath yatra was witness to several terror attacks – big and small – in the past, but despite these the Amarnath yatra continues to be unhindered.

Here is the list of terror strikes targeting Amarnath yatris:

  • On August 2000, 25 people – including 17 pilgrims – were killed when the terrorists lobbed grenades and resorted to indiscriminate firing at Pahalgam, where one of the two base camps of the Amarnath pilgrimage was situated.
  • In July 2001, 13 people – including five pilgrims and three cops –were killed when terrorists hurled grenades at a camp of Amarnath yatris and later fired indiscriminately near the Amarnath cave.
  • In July 2002, two pilgrims were killed when terrorists hurled grenades at a taxi in Srinagar which was on its way to the Amarnath cave base camp.
  • In June 2006, five pilgrims were injured when the terrorists hurled a grenade at a bus carrying Amarnath yatris near Bihama-Ganderbal in central Kashmir. 
  • In July 2007, fifteen pilgrims were injured in two separate attacks that targeted the Yatris. In one case, grenade was lobbed into a community kitchen inside a gurdwara, showcasing the hatred attackers have for Indic traditions.

Meanwhile, hundreds of yatris were set off for the Amarnath Shrine today, undeterred by the latest terror attack.

Amarnath, one of the most revered Hindu shrines, is situated 3,888 m above the sea level. According to legend, when Lord Shiva Shiva decided to tell Parvati the secret of his Amar Katha (immortality), he chose the Amarnath cave.

Amarnath is located at a distance of about 141 km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. Thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave to see the Shiva Linga formed from the freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave on to the floor and grows up vertically from the cave floor.

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Saswat Panigrahi
Political writer, policy observer.

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