NEW DELHI :
As the Amarnath Yatra inches towards conclusion, security forces have found a reason to celebrate as terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir have touched a record low this year during the ongoing pilgrimage.
With the pilgrimage having already recorded a footfall of 2.9 lakh pilgrims, security forces of the Indian Army, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jammu and Kashmir Police have clamped down on terrorism in the Valley with the state recording just two terror incidents since the beginning of the Yatra on 1 July.
This statistic, accessed by Mint, is in sharp contrast to the previous two years. In 2018, the Centre recorded 100 terror incidents in which 35 terrorists and 8 civilians were killed, while in 2017, there were 36 incidents in which 44 terrorists and 10 civilians were killed during the Amarnath Yatra.
While both these incidents remained confined to two terrorists being gunned down during cordon and search operations (CASO) in south Kashmir, forces said that the situation had improved dramatically over the last two months after Union home minister Amit Shah took charge.
"There has been a marked difference in the situation since Amit Shah has taken over. The strategy of the new home minister has turned around the situation in the state, especially now when we have to manage lakhs of civilians. Till now, the yatra has been peaceful aside from the deaths of yatris due to climatic conditions," said a senior security force official in J&K, seeking anonymity.
A terrorist attack on the Amarnath Yatra in July 2017 killed seven pilgrims and injured 19.
While the Union home minister made no apologies about shutting down traffic on the arterial Jammu-Srinagar highway during the ongoing pilgrimage -- despite mounting backlash from the state -- forces admitted that the traffic regulation too had worked in their favour.
"Yes, there was major backlash from the separatists and civilians who demanded a reopening of the route. But after the Pulwama attack nobody wanted to take a chance. Regulating traffic has helped sanitise the yatra as well because we can better manage the yatri convoys as well as the independent yatris who ply on the yatra route now," said another official who is overseeing security arrangements in the yatra.
The Centre has deployed as many as 40,000 security personnel as part of its multi-tier security arrangement for the Amarnath Yatra which was flagged off from Jammu and Kashmir, along the Baltal-Pahalgam route in Kashmir up to the shrine on 1 July. The yatra concludes on 15 August.
At the same time, to keep track of vehicular movement along the yatra route, access control checking gadgets have been deployed both along the Pahalgam and Baltal routes, with a specified barcode storing the information of all pilgrims.
The CRPF has also procured upgraded RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that are being use to mark civilian vehicles plying on the route.