Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday flagged off the first batch of pilgrims, as they set off to Shri Amarnath Ji Cave Shrine from Jammu base camp amidst chanting of Vedic mantras.

Marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage, the first batch of 4,890 Yatris was flagged off at around 4 in the morning from the Bhagwati Nagar- base camp for Kashmir Valley in a cavalcade of 176 light and heavy vehicles.

The pilgrimage has begun amid tightest-ever security. A top Intelligence Bureau official, requesting anonymity, told The Daily Guardian aReview, “In this year’s Amarnath Yatra, we have specially deployed a maximum number of sniffer dogs. Over 130 sniffer dogs are currently deployed on routes from Srinagar and Jammu towards the holy Amarnath cave to detect explosives suspected to be used by terrorist outfits to disrupt the annual pilgrimage.”

Some of the most commonly used breeds among these sniffer dogs are German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois and ­ador.

The security forces have been using sniffer dogs to avert any eventuality during the pilgrimage, which is being organised after a span of two years. The latest threat inputs raise an alarm over the use of grenades, sticky bombs, and Improvised Explosive Devices during the pilgrimage.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) informed the Central government last week that Pakistan-based commanders of proscribed terrorist organisations are planning to carry out terror activities targeting minorities, security personnel and religious pilgrimages, including Amaranth Yatra, Vaishno Devi Yatra and other similar religious activities.

In view of these terror threats, about 200 drones are being used on the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal to monitor each and every activity. The official added that a major threat is suspected from proscribed terrorist organisations like «The Resistance Front (TRF), People Anti-Fascist Forces (PAFF).

A deep-rooted conspiracy of Pakistan-based proscribed terrorist organisations has also been unearthed in the investigation, which suggests that these terror outfits are joining hands to form a united group. They have shifted their modus operandi by floating pseudo-offshoot outfits portrayed as indigenous resistance groups. These terrorist acts are being committed in their name with the intention of claiming deniability at the international level.

As evident in the latest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, after the abrogation of article 370, many offshoot outfits such as The Resistance Front (TRF), People Against Fascist Forces (PAFF), United Liberation Front J-K (ULF J-K), Muslim Janbaaz Force (MJF), Kashmir Janbaaz Force (KJF), Kashmir Tigers, Kashmir Fight, Mujahideen Gazwat-ul-Hind, Kashmir Gaznavi Force etc. have suddenly mushroomed, laying claims to various terrorist acts.

Another official claimed that there was an intelligence report regarding the use of sticky bombs of a minimum of half kg and attack of grenades. The official said that it is learnt that terrorists have started gathering at launching pads along the border on the Pakistan side. They are suspected to enter through riverine areas and tunnels during the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage.

Along with this, almost double the number of companies of all security forces have been deployed in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to the previous year for the security of Amarnath Yatra. High-tech gadgets like IED detectors and binoculars are being used for the first time. The official added that some of these gadgets are manufactured by Israel.

Another officer in the CRPF said that all the forces, including the Army, CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir Police, Jammu and Kashmir administration and Amarnathji Shrine Board members, have put an integrated effort to ensure a safe pilgrimage.

The Amarnath Yatra will take place this year, after a hiatus of two years. The Jammu and Kashmir government cancelled the annual Amarnath pilgrimage in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 situation.