The influential separatist and chairman of a faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani, said the people of Kashmir have always been friendly and generous towards Amarnath pilgrims and dismissed reports of terror threat to Amarnath Yatra as a misinformation campaign. The annual pilgrimage that begins on June 29, lasts for a month.
Geelani's statement assumes significance as he commands great influence among militant groups in Kashmir.
His statement was received well by the government authorities who are apprehensive that protests during the pilgrimage could worsen an already grim security situation in Kashmir.
In 2016, the separatist agitation, triggered by the killing of a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, had resulted in the Yatra being halted. Many pilgrims, who were left stranded in Jammu, cancelled the trip.
Geelani termed reports of militant threat as a calculated move aimed at discrediting Kashmir's political struggle.
He said the people of Kashmir were always hospitable to pilgrims and received them as guests.
"Kashmiris are not against any religion or its followers.They are pursuing a legitimate struggle for their fundamental rights," he said.
He said during the uprisings of 2008, 2010 and 2016, the people of Kashmir, despite restrictions and curfew, received the yatris with open arms and provided them shelter and food.
The recent spurt in militant attacks and infiltration bids has caused concern among the government and security circles.
The government has made adequate security arrangements for the successful conduct of the Yatra.
Sources said the government had requisitioned several thousand additional paramilitary forces.
Several thousand police and paramilitary forces have been mobilised to provide security to the pilgrims. The government has also made arrangements for medical assistance, drinking water, and transport facilities for the yatris.
Meanwhile, in Srinagar, Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also the chairman of Amarnath Shrine Board, inaugurated a control room.
The control room has a helpline for inquiries and complaints as may be received from the pilgrims.
The helpline will function from 9.30am to 6.00pm on all weekdays from 12 to 26 June. From 27 June, it will function without any breaks till the conclusion of the Yatra.
"Any person seeking information or help, facing any difficulty in regard to the forthcoming Yatra, which commences on 29 June 2017, can call 0194-2313146 or send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,” a government statement said.