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India Police Warned 2 Weeks Ago of Attack on Hindu Pilgrims in Kashmir

The attack sparked outrage across Kashmir and much of India

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An Indian border security force soldier stands guard at a temporary checkpoint near a pilgrim base camp near Pahalgam, about 100 Kilometers south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, July 11, 2017. VOA
  • The memo, marked “top secret,” warned that a “sensational attack by terrorist outfits cannot be ruled out” in the mostly Muslim region
  • Indian security officials had been expecting an attack
  • The police also said that the bus had been traveling at night, despite instructions to avoid the roads after dark

As India’s government on Tuesday blamed separatist rebels for gunning down seven Hindu pilgrims and wounding 19 more in Kashmir before fleeing into the night, rebel groups in the disputed region condemned the rare, deadly attack on civilians and insisted they had no part in it.

A memo that was circulated to regional police, military and paramilitary units two weeks ago indicates Indian security officials had been expecting an attack. The memo, marked “top secret,” warned that a “sensational attack by terrorist outfits cannot be ruled out” in the mostly Muslim region.

The memo, dated June 25 and verified as authentic by The Associated Press, said “terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 yatris (pilgrims) and about 100 police.”

It described circumstances eerily similar to what transpired Monday night: “The attack may be in the form of standoff fire on yatra (pilgrimage) convoy, which they (militants) believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation.”

Police said the attack began with gunmen unleashing a hail of bullets on an armored police vehicle and, soon after, on a nearby police patrol. They said that a bus carrying 60 Hindu pilgrims had been passing through the area when the patrolling police and militants were exchanging fire, and that some bullets struck the bus and its passengers.

Terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 yatris (pilgrims) Click To Tweet

The police also said that the bus had been traveling at night, despite instructions to avoid the roads after dark. Though security had been increased along the route for the pilgrimage, the thousands of deployed soldiers and police do not patrol overnight.

ALSO READ: Terror Strikes Again: 7 Amarnath Pilgrims killed, 32 Injured in a Terror Attack in Anantnag

Several bus passengers who were wounded gave a different version of events, saying the bus had been targeted from three directions during the attack. They said the driver kept driving the bus as it was being struck with bullets near the southern town of Anantnag on the main highway linking Kashmir with the rest of India.

The annual summer pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine, which began June 29 under heavy security, has been targeted in the past. Opponents of Indian rule in Kashmir accuse Hindu-majority India of using the pilgrimage as a political statement to bolster its claim to the disputed region.

On Tuesday, thousands of Hindus continued the religious pilgrimage undeterred, as Indian soldiers and police increased security along the Himalayan route for buses carrying pilgrims to the base camps where they start walking the path to the high mountain cave.

None of the rebel groups fighting to oust India from the mostly Muslim region has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the three top separatist leaders in Kashmir condemned it.

They demanded an independent investigation into the attack.

“This incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos,” the separatist leaders – Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammed Yasin Malik – said in a joint statement.

Police were searching for the assailants, who they said were from the Pakistan-based rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba. India also blames the group for a 2008 attack that left 166 people dead in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai.

“We’re investigating the attack, but we know certainly that the Lashkar has done it. We’ll soon deal with them,” police Inspector-General Muneer Ahmed Khan said.

Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any involvement in the attack, which they called “reprehensible” and “un-Islamic,” according to a statement sent to local media in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The group said India was behind the attack, “to sabotage the freedom struggle of Kashmiris” and fulfill “its nefarious agenda” to crush the popular anti-India rebellion.

“No Kashmiri has ever targeted any pilgrims, and this barbarity and atrocity is the trademark of Indian forces,” the group’s statement said.

Residents said they were afraid of a possible backlash by Hindu nationalists and Indian forces against Kashmiris elsewhere in India.

“My two brothers are studying in India,” school teacher Shagufta Kaunsar said. “I don’t know if it’s really safe for them there. We’re already telling them to come back home.”

Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of Kashmir, asked India’s home ministry to protect Kashmiri students and workers across the nation. “Possibility of backlash can’t be ignored,” he said in a Twitter message.

Most of the pilgrims wounded in the attack were released from hospitals on Tuesday. The bodies of those killed were flown to New Delhi on their way to the pilgrims’ west Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The attack sparked outrage across Kashmir and much of India.

In the Jammu region of Kashmir, which is dominated by Hindus, hundreds of protesters shouted angry slogans against the militants and burned a faceless effigy meant to represent both terrorism and Pakistan, which India blames for supporting the rebels. Many shops and businesses were shuttered for a protest strike in Jammu.

Meanwhile, students in the Gujarati city of Ahmadabad gathered for a sit-in to protest all religious violence, while peace activists planned a candlelight vigil in New Delhi on Tuesday night.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the last major attack on Amarnath pilgrims occurred in 2000, when gunmen killed 30 people in the Pahalgam area, including local porters carrying pilgrim’s baggage up the mountain path. (VOA)

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Know about the Famous Amarnath Cave in Jammu and Kashmir!

Here are some facts and stories about the very popular Amarnath Cave situated in Jammu and Kashmir

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Amarnath Cave
Amarnath Cave, Jammu and Kashmir. Wikimedia
  • The Amarnath Cave is a popular pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir
  • Founded by Buta Malik, a Muslim shepherd, whose family is offered donations even today
  • Amarnath as its name came later after the name Amareshwara was used for many years

Jammu and Kashmir, July 21, 2017: Jammu and Kashmir’s Amarnath Cave is among the most popular pilgrimage sites in the region. Devotees believe it to be a sacred place because according to Hindu mythology, it was chosen by Lord Shiva to reveal the secrets of immortality to his wife, Goddess Parvati. Amareshwara was the first name of the tirtha, but later the name Amarnath became popular.

There are multiple references to the Amarnath caves in the Rajatarangini written by Kalhana. Rajatarangini book VII, V.183 states that Queen Suryamati “conceded under her significant other’s name agraharas at Amareshwara, and masterminded the sanctification of trishulas, banalingas and other [sacred emblems]”

ALSO READ: Amarnath Yatra: Adhere to these Do’s and Dont’s While on the Pilgrimage

Jonaraja in his Chronicles of Kashmir (which is a continuation of Rajatanganini) explores that Sultan Zainu’l-abidin also visited the tirtha of Amarnath while waterway to the left bank of Lidder valley was being developed. Today, the trench is known as Shah Kol.

The melting of the ice lingam and the journey to the Amarnath was also mentioned in Rajavalipataka. Yusuf Khan, Kashmir’s legislative leader at the time, mentioned these things to Akbar, who added Kashmir to his empire in 1586.

The Amarnath cave was discovered by Buta Malik, a Muslim shepherd Click To Tweet

During Shah Jahan’s reign too, the Amarnath yatra was a famous pilgrimage destination. Panditraj Jagannath, in his tribute to Shah Jahan’s son in law, wrote in ‘Asaf Vilas’ that Indra (the king of divine beings) himself visits the Amarnath to come see Lord Shiva.

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Emperor Aurangzeb visited Kashmir in 1663 with a French doctor Francois Bernier, who mentioned the Amarnath cave in his book “Goes in Mughal Empire” Another voyager Vigne, in his book “Goes in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu” describes the Amarnath as a spot for explorers and pilgrims from all over India.

The cave was first discovered by Buta Malik, a Muslim shepherd.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


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Terror Strikes Again: 7 Amarnath Pilgrims killed, 32 Injured in a Terror Attack in Anantnag

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Amarnath Cave Shrine
Pilgrimage to the Amarnath Yatra. Wikimedia

Srinagar, July 11, 2017: A terrorist attack in Anantnag killed 7 Amarnath pilgrims from Gujarat, 6 of them women, and left 32 injured, when they were traveling on a bus on Monday, July 10.

A similar incident happened 17 years back on August 1, 2000, when an armed attack was staged against the annual yatra which draws lakhs of Hindus from across India to the state. In that incident, around 30 pilgrims and local porters were killed near Pahalgam.

Around 8:20 pm on Monday night, the pilgrims’ bus (GJ09Z 9976) was fired on near Khanabal when it was on its way to Jammu, mentioned ANI report.

Police revealed that the bus was not a part of the yatra convoy, which is being provided elaborate security and it was also not registered with the authorities either.

A police official said, during the attack, the terrorists first attacked a bullet-proof bunker of the police at Botengoo. After the police retaliated, the gunmen moved on and fired on a police picket near Khanabal.

PM Narendra Modi has called Anantnag terrorist attack, a cowardly act and an evil design of hate and that the attack deserves the strongest condemnation from everyone.

The militants fled when the police retaliated but they started firing indiscriminately and therefore, the bus which was carrying the yatris got hit.

Even though the police accounts suggest that these yatris were a secondary target, some of the pilgrims who survived the attack said the terrorists had directly targetted them.

(This is a developing story)

– prepared by a Staff writer at NewsGram

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Amid Political Tension, 70 Hindu Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan to attend Sant Shada Ram Anniversary

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Representational image. VOA

Lahore, November 23, 2016: More than 70 Hindu pilgrims from India reached Lahore to participate in 308th birth anniversary of Sant Shada Ram in the Sindh province.
On Tuesday, the officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board received the pilgrims at Wagah border.

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According to ETPB spokesman Amir Hashmi said, “Seventy-one Hindu pilgrims, including 17 women, arrived in Lahore on Tuesday to take part in festivities on the birth anniversary of Sant Shada Ram in Mirpur Khas.”

He further added that the ETPB, which takes care of the holy places of the minorities in Pakistan, ensured reliable security services for the Hindu pilgrims visiting.

71 Hindu pilgrims arrived in Lahore on Tuesday to take part in festivities on the birth anniversary of Sant… Click To Tweet

He further said that the board has arranged the visit of the pilgrims in seven cities of Sindh.
Hashmi further added that the Pakistan had issued visas to 84 Indian applicants.

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He said, “Of them, 13 did not come here due to reasons best known to them.”

One of the visiting members Bansi Lal said, “My father who had 2,000 acre land, left his village close to Mirpur Methaleo during partition. After 70 years, I am fortunate to get opportunity to visit our ancestral place. This visit has brought me immense joy and spiritual satisfaction.”

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The Hindu pilgrims will be returning to Lahore on December 2 and will be leaving for India the very next day.

by NewsGram team with PTI inputs