The fifth batch of more than 3,000 pilgrims left here today for the high altitude Amarnath cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. Chants of "Jai Bholay Nath, Bum Bum Bholay" were heard as 3,313 devotees -- 2,310 men, 671 females and 152 sadhus and sadhvis -- left Jammu in 88 vehicles. The convoy was escorted by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicles, an official spokesperson said. With today's batch, 15,360 pilgrims haveleft Jammu for Amarnath since the pilgrimage began on June 28, he added. As many as 46,795 pilgrims have paid obeisance at the shrine, located at a height of 3,888-metre-high in the south Kashmir Himalayas. Multi-tier security arrangements have been made for the 40-day pilgrimage.
These include satellite tracking systems, jammers and bulletproof bunkers, dog squads, CCTV cameras and quick response teams in addition to thousands of security personnel guarding the route in view of the increased threat perception and violence in the Valley. The annual yatra began with a terror threat,prompting authorities to mobilise the "highest level" of security measures. "Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials," according to a letter sentby Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) Muneer Khan to the Army,the CRPF and range DIGs in the state on Sunday last. "The input is assessed to be a HUMINT (human intelligence) andit needs further corroboration," the IGP said in the letter. This year's yatra will be eight days shorter and conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) onAugust 7. Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine stands at 3,888 metres, 46 km from Pahalgamand 14 km from Baltal.
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