Pak-based terrorists planning to target Amarnath Yatra: Army. The J&K administration has asked tourists and Yatris to leave the state as soon as possible in view of the prevailing security situation. J&K is already on edge in view of reinforcements of troops being sent to the Valley. In Srinagar, Lt Gen KJS Dhillion said a mine with Pakistan ordnance factory markings was found along the Yatra route

NEW DELHI: The Amarnath Yatra has been called off almost two weeks ahead of schedule with security forces uncovering what they said was an imminent attack leading to Jammu and Kashmir administration asking tourists and Yatris to leave the state as soon as possible in view of the prevailing security situation. 

The decision sparked uncertainty in Jammu& Kashmir which was already on the edge in view of reinforcements of troops being sent to the Valley over the past few days. While 28,000 para-military personnel were inducted in the Valley over the past week around 32,500 troops will be disengaged from Yatra duties and moved to Kashmir. There are already 35,000 troops stationed in the Valley and their number will rise to almost 90,000 now: an augmentation which many are seeing through the prism of BJP’s poll commitment to abrogate Article 35 A. 

In Srinagar, Lt Gen K J S Dhillion, in-charge of the Chinar Corps, said a mine with Pakistan ordnance factory markings was found during search operations along the yatra routes. A cache of arms included a US M-24 sniper rifle and a mine with markings of the Pakistan ordnance factory, he said. 

“Pakistan and Pakistani army are desperate to vitiate the atmosphere here in Kashmir, which is evident from specific and confirmed intelligence inputs that terrorists are planning attacks on Amarnath yatris and tourists,” Gen Dhillion said. 

The announcement , however, failed to quell the speculation about Centre’s plans vis-a-vis Article 35 A( which prohibits outsiders from purchasing land in the state) 

The government on Friday tried to play down the inductions saying around 100 companies received orders around a week ago and are in the process of reaching their destinations. “Based on the assessment of internal security situation, training requirements, the need for paramilitary troops to be rotated for rest and recuperation, induction and de-induction of central forces is a continuous and dynamic process,” said an official. 

Sources in the security establishment while not speculating on reasons for fresh troop deployment and discontinuation of the Yatra, said there were inputs of a major threat, including use of IEDs, against pilgrims and tourists in the Valley. Around 5-6 foreign terrorists were believed to have infiltrated into J&K some four-five days ago, possibly explaining recent ceasefire violations on Pakistan border. 

It is understood that the infiltrators formed teams with terrorists holed up in the Valley, with instructions to fan out across south Kashmir to carry out attacks on Yatris and tourists. 

A CRPF official said the inputs led to forces suspending the Yatra to sanitise the route, during which the several recoveries that were mentioned by Gen Dhillon and state police. The sanitising operations were continuing till late on Friday. 

The threat of possible attacks is seen as serious and immediate and though numbers of incoming Yatris to Amarnath were already thinning after hitting a high of 3.40 lakh ‘Darshans’, a considered decision was taken to end the Yatra nearly a fortnight in advance. 

Yet, the “impending security threat” explanation has not completely quietened the speculation about the extraordinary mobilisation of troops in Kashmir, which coincides with visits by or presence of the security brass including NSA Ajit Doval and Army chief Bipin Rawat in the Valley over the past few days.

The troop reinforcements have fuelled persistent speculation about a move to scrap Article-35A, which a BJP manifesto promise. Home minister Amit Shah, considered a hawk on terror in Kashmir, has demonstrated that manifesto promises are taken seriously. Only recently, the Triple Talaq Bill, another manifesto promise, was enacted. 

Shah had only recently underlined that Article 370 in J&K was a temporary provision. Government sources maintain that Article 35A is bad in law and can be done away by an executive order. A government leader reiterated that pendency of the matter relating to Article-35A in the Supreme Court cannot keep the government from going ahead with its abrogation, as also sought in the petition.