New Delhi: According to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, 2.44 lac pilgrims have completed the darshan at the holy cave in Kashmir in the first 23 days of pilgrimage making it one of the highest visited numbers in the last decade of the Amarnath Yatra.
The average number of Yatris remains high at over 10000 a day despite Yatra being suspended for days after a flash flood hit the 13500 feet high-altitude cave site killing 16 pilgrims and injuring over 40 people on July 8. This year due to inclement weather, Yatra has also been suspended given the closure of the Jammu Srinagar National Highway many times.
The number also remains higher as the Yatra resumes after a hiatus of three years. It was in 2011 that this Yatra in Kashmir went above 6,00,000 pilgrims visiting the cave in 45 days. This was also a time when militancy was at its low in Kashmir.
In 2013, over 3.5 lac pilgrims visited the cave. 2014 and 2015 saw 3.5 lac and 2.2 lac pilgrims visiting respectively. In 2016 and 2017, 2.2 and 2.6 lac pilgrims visited the cave respectively. 2018 and 2019 saw a jump in figures again with 2.85 and 3.42 pilgrims visiting the cave.
If the weather permits, traders and porters associated with Yatra say that the average number may increase and may inch closer to the 2011 figures. Yatra which also symbolizes communal harmony in Kashmir also stands as a peace indicator of the conflicted region. “Higher the number of Yatris, more tourism follows. These figures carry a message across the country,” Rafiq Ahmed, a porter at the Pahalgam Yatra route said.
The Yatra had started on June 30 with meticulous security arrangements. Along with the additional forces being stationed along the twin routes of the Yatra. Oxygen plants and booths have been set up all along the route. Officials at the shrine board have said that they are expecting pilgrims in addition to the estimated 3,00,000 pilgrims this year.
Meanwhile, the government advised the tourists and Yatris to travel in the Kashmir valley only during the daylight hours. For this, the time given by the government is 7 in the morning till 6 in the evening.
This has apparently been done to avoid any security threats as forces are apprehensive of militant attacks on this Yatra. The government has been on alert with regard to these militant threats. India Ahead earlier traveled on one of the traditional routes through Pahalgam.
It saw alternately after every few hundred meters, groups of security personnel including Border Security Forces are stationed along the road, especially in the militant hotbed of South Kashmir.
As per an official at Amarnath Shrine Board, nearly three lakh registrations have taken place but the number of devotees visiting the cave is going to be more than the registered toll.
“Most of the tourists here in Pahalgam during the time of the Yatra sneak in to also visit the cave so the cumulative number gets larger than that registered number,” Javid Ahmed, a lower rung official at Amarnath Shrine Board’s Chandanwari office told India Ahead.