6 Feb 2014

Unsung and Unheard - The Army’s Role in Amarnath Yatra

The Army’s Role in Amarnath Yatra
The Amarnath Yatra, a National event, is an annual feature in the months of June to August every year. Fervent and enthusiastic pilgrims from all corners of the country come to pay obeisance in large numbers at the Holy Shrine located at a height of approximately 14000 ft in the treacherous mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. The Yatra every year commences once the route becomes accessible and is fully secured by the Army and comes to an end on the traditionally auspicious day of ‘Shravan Purnima’.

            Due to heavy snow fall the environment was apprehensive of the timely start of the yatra last year in 2012. Heavy snow posed intense difficulties to the Army to open the route in the early part of June. It was the Army who led the induction on both the (Northern and Southern)  routes as no other stake holder was willing to move ahead. As always the Army showed “where there is a will, there is a way” and the yatra commenced as planned. Troops of the Army endured adverse terrain and weather conditions to put up an exhaustive security umbrella for the yatra.

            Apart from providing impregnable security arrangements on the routes, the Army also extended its role in providing various types of humanitarian assistance to the yatris.

Relentless Domination: Anticipating the huge rush for the yatra, and the terrorist threat  both the routes were continuously dominated by picquets of Army on the higher reaches.  Rigorous area domination patrols were sent in hostile terrain in unfavourable weather conditions to plug the passes and routes which can be taken by terrorists to carryout subversive activities on the Yatris.  Effort and actions have paid.

Alertness: The Army has always been sensitive and alert to any intelligence input. A case in point was the opening of Thuraya set (Satellite phone) on the Southern Route by a foreign national who was tracked by relentless operation of Army thus negating any danger to the yatra.

Assistance to Yatris: The Yatris face enormous problems owing to the slushy track, high altitude and tiring trek during the Pilgrimage.  The Army has come to the aid of the Yatris always and every time.  Army conducted humanitarian operations for rescue of Yatris till late midnights almost everyday. 
·            The gambit of support extended to the Yatris by Army ranged from physical support to moral awakening of keeping the environment clean by stressing that “No Garbage in/near the Camp”.
·            Army placed a total of four Avalanche Rescue Teams (ARTs) on both the routes to help Civil Administration during natural disasters.
·            Apart from providing help to old age people in movement, Army has  provided food, refreshment and shelter to 18445 yatris.
·            A total of 8212 yatris have been rescued during adverse weather conditions apart from recovering a large number of ponies who fell into the gorges.
·            Number of times children separated from their parents. The distressed parents approached only the Army to find them. Needless to say Army responded with speed & positive intent and united the families. Accolades about Army were sung. The affected families will never forget the Army.
·            To motivate the yatris to keep moving on the treacherous trek, had been a daily affair which was widely appreciated by the pilgrims. 
On 25 June 2012, the day of commencement of Amarnath Yatra the influx of Yatries from Chandanbari to Sheshnag was considerably high. Due to adverse weather conditions and slushy terrain the movement of yatries was delayed till late night. As a result 3500-4500 yatries were stranded between Zajipal and Sheshnag on night 25-26 June 2012. As always Army was the only responder to provide material, physical & psychological comfort and assistance on the day and complete night of 25 & 26 June 2012. It was ensured that each yatri was taken care of. The Commanding Officer, himself led the team assisting yatris between Zazipal and Sheshnag. About 4500 yatris were assisted.

450 Yatris specially women and children who were extremely fatigued due to inclement weather and tough climb and showed incapability to move ahead were given shelter and comfort at Zazipal at a very short notice.

Medical Assistance: Owing to the environmental hazards of the Yatra, a number of Medical Aid Posts were established by the Army.  These medical aid posts were open to civilians 24 x 7. 
·               These medical detachments were well equipped with the best medical equipment to handle life threatening emergencies and have been instrumental in stabilizing cardiac events saving precious lives of the Yatris. 
·               A total of 38164 yatries were provided with medical assistance apart from 42 serious casualty evacuations.
·               Further, the Army took initiative to conduct a total of six special medical and veterinary camps at various locations providing free medications to all locals, vendors, gujjars and bakarwals and ponies – which are regarded as the lifeline to this Yatra.
Disaster Management: The army showed foresightedness in planning and  catering for any unforeseen events. Army catered for food, accommodation, bedding and cold clothing in case of any disaster for more than 3200 Yatris along both the routes. Apart from that certain rations and clothing were kept at centrally located helipads to move by helicopters in case of emergency.
Honesty: Force Ethos of Army was exhibited on a number of occasions where valuable items and money which were lost by the yatris were found by the Army Personnel and were returned to the owners. This display of honesty has melted the hearts of the yatris and connected deeply with them.
Internal Security Situations: A number of situations surfaced where in the locals had fights/quarrels/tiffs with Police /CRPF/BSF personnel and situations went out of control, one such situation happened at Sheshnag. All other forces withdrew from the scene sensing the wrath of the locals,  the Army took control of the situation and brought normalcy at the location.  
Running of Adhoc School at Domel: Not to miss out on the education of children, an adhoc Army Goodwill School was run in Domel by the Army for the children of Gujjars and Bakarwals who move to the area during the period of Amarnath Yatra. About 70 children were enrolled in the school. Classes were conducted for five days a week. Children were taught both Hindi and English languages, Mathematical Tables, and various other topics related to general awareness. They are also given information regarding the Nation. In addition to meeting the intellectual needs of the children they are also being provided with nutritious mid day meals. Various physical activities and sports were also conducted during the school hours and the students were also taken for regular medical checkup. Students were given free books and stationery. The locals and yatris appreciated the efforts being undertaken by the Army for the education of the nomadic children.

Recovery of Vehicles: Not to be left behind on this issue, the Army deployed a number of recovery vehicles on both the routes to recover vehicles meeting with the accidents thus saving  number of lives and not letting the routes to be blocked.
            To sum it up,   certain statements showing gratitude to the Army, straight from the core of the heart of the yatris, which highlight the assistance by the Army:-
·                  Army Na Hoti To Hum Yeh Yatra Kabhi Bhi Na Kar Pate” said a young lady pilgrim.
·                  Hum Army Ke Bahut Shukragujar Hain Ki Unhone Hamari Is Yatra Ke Dauran Har Mod Par Madad Ki Hai” said by a couple who were given shelter & food when they were left stranded on yatra route due to bad weather.
·                  “Army Ke Dwara Di Gayin Suvidhaon Ke Karan Hi Hum Yeh Yatra Karne Main Safal Rahe Hai” as spoken by a group of people who visited holy cave from Maharashtra.
·                  “Army Ne Na Kewal Yatra Main Humari Madad Ki Hai Par Sath Hi Sath Bahut Sari Jaane Bachakar Yatriyon Ki Duaein Bhi Li Hain” said by an old lady whose husband’s life was saved by Army doctors.

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