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Amarnath yatra crosses 100,000 mark
Published on 11 Jul. 2010 12:09 AM IST
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Amid tension and violence in the Kashmir Valley, the number of Hindu pilgrims who have reached the Amarnath shrine in the Himalayas has crossed the 100,000 mark. The milestone was achieved on the ninth day of the pilgrimage Friday night. The two-month-long pilgrimage to the cave shrine, located at a height of 13,500 feet above sea level, commenced July 1.
A naturally made ice stalagmite known as “Shivlingam”, an icon of Hindu Lord Shiva, is the major attraction for the devotees from across the country.
“Yes, the yatra (pilgrimage) has crossed the 100,000 mark. Till 6 p.m. Friday evening the figure was 99,151, but overnight it crossed the 100,000 mark,” an official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board told IANS.
Apart from 85 companies (nearly 10,000 men) of the Central Reserve Police Force, 3,000 Border Security Force personnel and soldiers have been deployed for the safety of the pilgrims. There are two routes to the shrine from Jammu: the traditional route via Pahalgam - and a shorter and steeper one via Baltal.
“This time pilgrims have preferred the traditional route. Around 56,000 pilgrims used the Pahalgam route, as compared to 45,000 who used the Baltal route,” the official said.
Fifteen people have died in the Kashmir Valley since June 11 in clashes between protesters and security forces. Meanwhile, government has sounded a high alert to security agencies protecting pilgrims during the two-month-long Amarnath Yatra following intelligence inputs that militants based in Pakistan are planning to target them.
Highly placed officials said that intelligence agencies have intercepted several conversations between militants operating in Kashmir valley and across the border which suggested that they were planning attacks on the pilgrims taking part in the Yatra.
“As the attention of the security forces is concentrated on the prevailing unrest in the valley, the militants may try to take advantage of the situation. Therefore, we have asked everyone to be on high alert,” an official said.
The Central government has provided around 8,500 paramilitary force personnel-- 2,200 more than last year-- to ensure foolproof security during the Yatra.
The security personnel have been deployed along the entire route to the cave shrine of Lord Shiva at a height of 3,888 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas.
“We have provided enough security for peaceful completion of the pilgrimage,” the official said.
Around 2.90 lakh pilgrims have been registered so far across the country. The Yatra would conclude on August 25.
Curfew was clamped on Tuesday and army moved in to assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order after violent protests shook the valley.
Barring Sopore and Pulwama, curfew was lifted temporarily in the Kashmir Valley to allow people to offer prayers at the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar last night.

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