New Delhi: As a sudden directive issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government sparked panic in the Valley, the Amarnath Yatra came to a grinding halt on Friday with the pilgrimage unlikely to resume hereafter, this year.
Till this week, the pilgrimage had received a record footfall of three lakh pilgrims -- surpassing last year's record of 2.85 lakh pilgrims, with the Union home ministry recording just two terrorists incidents during the pilgrimage until Friday.
While the Yatra clocks a 60-day period, on Friday, a sudden tip off in the preceding days led the state's home department to suspend the yatra. In 2017 even as a terrorist attack sullied the Yatra, Friday's development came as a pre-emptive measure by the Centre and the state.
A senior official in Kashmir, familiar with the development stated that the Valley was now being flushed out of tourists, with resorts in Gulmarg also being vacated. At the same time, the state transport corporation has also started plying buses to ferry tourists out of Pahalgam and Gulmarg, which are commercial tourism hubs in Kashmir.
"These are precautionary measures and the order (issued on Friday) clearly asks yatris to return. The Yatra has been absolutely airtight and has gone off smoothly but just to set a record we don’t want to play with hundreds of lives and put them at risk. It is only prudent to send civilians back in light of the recent developments," the official added.
While the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan has been witnessing continued ceasefire violations by the neighbour country, a senior intelligence official said that the violations were a form of cover fire that was being given to divert attention of Indian forces away from the actual goings on along the LoC.
At the same time, a senior Union home ministry official said that in addition to the 100 companies that had been deployed last week, further troops would be infused in the region to "restore the internal security situation."
"There is reason to believe that Masood Azhar and his kin have begun to fuel unrest in the area by activating all cells of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Movement along the LoC has been observed on the other side as well and it is moving towards India," the above quite intelligence official said, seeking anonymity.