40 injured, 100 tents torched in Amarnath Yatra base camp clash

Srinagar/New Delhi, Jul 18:  Over 40 people were injured in clashes between security forces and protesters in Baltal base camp of the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir after a scuffle between a local pony operator and a cook turned violent, police said. The situation was in control now, said a senior police officer.

Around 100 tents and half a dozen ‘langars’ (community kitchens) were also torched during clashes. Around twenty protesters and an equal number of security force personnel were injured in the clashes that followed a scuffle between a non-local cook and the pony-wallah.

Governor N.N.Vohra, who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) which conducts the pilgrimage, appealed for calm in the area. Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and urged him to take all necessary steps to control the situation in the area.

Reports from Baltal said six people, including two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers, have been arrested for instigating the violence. The trouble erupted after the cook reportedly stabbed the ponywallah, who was shifted to a hospital in Srinagar for treatment.

As news of the incident spread, pony-wallahs assembled in Baltal and started heavy stone pelting at the security forces including local police and the CRPF. While the CRPF said the protesters torched the langars, the locals alleged the CRPF troopers torched the tents of the local residents.

Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Abdul Ghani Mir flew to Baltal in a helicopter to supervise efforts to bring the situation under control. The entire Ganderbal district where the Baltal base camp is situated was gripped with tension after the incident.

The IGP told IANS the situation is completely under control and all the Yatris are safe. Meanwhile, because of the tension, security forces did not allow passage of yatris to Baltal and lodged the pilgrims at the Manigam transit camp in Ganderbal for the day.