THE MOTHER OF ALL YA­TRAS

India Today - - UPFRONT - Il­lus­tra­tion by TANMOY CHAKRABORT­Y

Prime min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, in his reg­u­lar ra­dio ad­dress, at­trib­uted a re­mark­able Amar­nath Ya­tra sea­son to the hos­pi­tal­ity of the peo­ple of Jammu and Kash­mir. More peo­ple have un­der­taken the pil­grim­age in its first month than in the en­tire 61-day pe­riod last year and the to­tal num­ber looks set to break the 2015 record. Once braved by only a few thou­sand hardy pil­grims, the trek now at­tracts hun­dreds of thou­sands ev­ery year. It has been a tar­get for ter­ror­ists in the past, most notably in con­sec­u­tive years from 2000 to 2002, in which over 50 pil­grims were killed and over 100 injured, and again in 2017 when eight peo­ple were killed and nearly 20 injured. PM Modi pointed out that the ya­tra has long been a sym­bol of com­mu­nal har­mony and said the suc­cess of the ya­tra showed, among other things, that the “process of devel­op­ment is stronger than guns and bombs”. Still, the Cen­tre has de­cided to de­ploy a fur­ther 10,000 troops to Kash­mir to strengthen counter-in­sur­gency mea­sures and the main­te­nance of law and or­der, prompt­ing some, such as for­mer J&K chief min­is­ter and BJP ally Me­hbooba Mufti, to sug­gest that the gov­ern­ment was stok­ing fear and ap­pre­hen­sion among res­i­dents. The state is ex­pected to go to polls later this year.

301,000

pil­grims un­der­took the Amar­nath Ya­tra be­tween July 1 and July 24 this year, 2018 to­tal: 285,000. The 46-day 2019 ya­tra ends on Au­gust 15

40,000

se­cu­rity per­son­nel de­ployed to pro­tect pil­grims this year, com­pared with 15,000 in 2015, and 30,000 in 2017 when ter­ror­ists killed 8 and injured nearly 20

26

pil­grims have died on the jour­ney (July 24 fig­ures) this year, as have 2 vol­un­teers and 2 se­cu­rity per­son­nel

$72 mn

or Rs 495.2 crore is the expenditur­e by J&K ad­min­is­tra­tion on prepa­ra­tions for this year’s ya­tra, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters re­port

46 km

Dis­tance from Pa­hal­gam to the caves via the more pop­u­lar longer route for pil­grims who walk

3,888 m

altitude (12,756 ft) at which the Amar­nath cave is lo­cated

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