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HM Amit Shah speaks to J&K LG, takes update on Amarnath Yatra

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6,491 pilgrims perform Darshan after Yatra resumed Sunday

New Delhi/Srinagar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spoke to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and took updates about Amarnath Yatra which was suspended due to heavy rains.

Shah spoke to Sinha in a telephonic conversation earlier in the day as the annual Amarnath Yatra remained suspended temporarily on both routes — Baltal (Ganderbal district) and Nunwan (Pahalgam district) — due to inclement weather conditions that triggered multiple landslides along the 270km-long Jammu-Srinagar national highway in Ramban district two days ago.

The annual Amarnath Yatra resumed on Sunday afternoon on the Pahalgam route following an improvement in weather conditions, officials said, adding that the Yatra on the other route, Baltal, is yet to resume.

Authorities on Sunday however stopped a batch of devotees at the Jammu base camp due to the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

Following the suspension of the Yatra, 6,000 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims were stranded at Ramban, officials said.

Overnight showers on Thursday led to landslides, mudslides and shooting stones at Panthyal, Mehar and other places in the Ramban district, blocking the national highway. Train movement from Qazigund to Banihal was also suspended following waterlogging at Hiller Anantnag railway station.

The pilgrimage to the cave shrine situated at an altitude of 3,888 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas began on July 1. The 62-day pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave, which is an abode of Lord Shiva, will culminate on August 31.

Through a tweet earlier on Sunday, the Home Minister applauded the work of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel for providing a safer Amarnath Yatra to every pilgrim. “The NDRF and the SDRF have always stood tall in service to the nation and humanity despite all odds. Their role has been crucial in fulfilling our goal of providing a safer Amarnath Yatra to every pilgrim. Sharing a photograph of an SDRF Jawan carrying a lady yatri on his back for 3 km through the unforgiving terrain of the Himalayas on her way back from the holy shrine. I applaud them for being the beacon of safety for the citizens,” Shah tweeted.

Meanwhile, the Amarnath Yatra resumed on Sunday from Panjtarni and Sheshnag base camps in Pahalgam after remaining suspended for three days due to inclement weather in Kashmir, officials said here.

As soon as the skies cleared around the cave shrine, the authorities opened the gates and allowed the stranded devotees to offer prayers at the naturally formed ice-lingam in south Kashmir Himalayas, they said.

“Those devotees who had already performed ‘darshan’ have been allowed to return to Baltal base camp,” a senior official at the Panjtarni base camp said.

The Army has sheltered more than 700 Amarnath pilgrims at its camp in Qazigund in Anantnag district after they were stranded due to heavy rainfall in the Valley.

Earlier, in the day no fresh batch of pilgrims was allowed from Jammu owing to inclement weather and closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, officials said.

Efforts are on to restore traffic on the highway which was blocked by multiple landslides and washing away of nearly 40-metre road stretch in Ramban district, leaving over 3,500 vehicles stranded, officials said.

While most parts of Jammu and Kashmir experienced incessant rains since Thursday night, some areas near the high altitude Amarnath shrine recorded snowfall as well.

According to the meteorological department, the weather is likely to improve from Monday.

The officials said the clearance operation along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway was hampered by incessant rains.

“The operation to clear the landslide debris and bypass the damaged portion of the road near Panthiyal tunnel through old road alignment is going on. Frequent shooting of stones from the hillocks overlooking the highway at Panthiyal delayed the restoration work,” a traffic department official said.

He said stranded vehicles will be cleared on priority once the road is made trafficable before allowing fresh traffic from Jammu and Srinagar.

The official said a fresh landslide at Ratta Chamb has blocked the Mughal road.

The road was cleared for traffic late afternoon on Saturday but was again blocked due to a fresh landslide, the official said, adding the clearance operation is on.

Meanwhile, as the weather showed significant improvement on Sunday, a batch of 6,491 pilgrims performed ‘darshan’ at the cave shrine  today, officials said.

They said among the pilgrims who paid obeisance at the cave included 4,700 males, 1,456 females, 213 children, 116 Sadhus and six Sadvis. So far 93,929 pilgrims have performed ‘darshan’ at the Amarnath cave shrine, they informed.

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