Amarnath yatra attack:

The registration of the bus, presence of military convoy and other key questions left unanswered after the terror attack on the bus of Amarnath pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag.


Security force personnel (R) checks the bag of a man near a base camp of Hindu pilgrimage to the cave of Amarnath after seven Hindu pilgrims were killed in a gunbattle between Indian police and militants on Monday.(REUTERS)

The attack on a bus of Amarnath pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag on Monday night that left seven people dead and 19 injured has left several questions unanswered.

Here are some:

• Was the bus registered with the Amarnath shrine board? If not, why?

Pilgrims and the vehicles they use have to be registered with the shrine board. Then how was the bus, which had a Gujarat number plate (GJ09Z 9976), allowed to ply? It is also unclear who owns the chartered bus, the sale of which to a new owner is said to be incomplete.

• How did the bus manage to go through multiple security check points despite no registration?

Around 60 unregistered pilgrims visited the shrine, and no one noticed? The people who were attacked on Monday night had completed the pilgrimage two days ago and took a detour for sightseeing. The bus left the Baltal base camp, where security is tight, and moved on the heavily guarded national highway, apparently not being checked even once.

• Why was the bus allowed to travel after sunset, a violation of standard operating procedure?

Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh admitted to lapses, and said officials would investigate why the bus was allowed to travel after 5pm. The security protocol for the annual pilgrimage bars vehicles from moving after sundown.

• Why was a police patrol vehicle travelling ahead of the unregistered pilgrim bus?

Security is provided only to registered vehicles. The presence of the police van, which was also targeted, has raised questions whether it was guarding the bus or just happened to travel ahead of it.

• Why did the police fail to secure the route despite intelligence warnings about possible terror attacks?

Two days before the pilgrimage started, Kashmir inspector general of police Muneer Khan wrote a letter, warning of terrorists planning a “sensational strike” to target Amarnath pilgrims to whip up communal passions. He had specifically mentioned terrorists could fire at pilgrim vehicles; that is what happened in Botengoo village on Monday night.