Tourists, non-residents left in lurch as advisory directing visitors to leave Kashmir Valley owing to 'terror threats' fuels chaos

Chaos erupted on Friday shortly after the Home Department issued an advisory asking tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible

Sameer Yasir August 03, 2019 22:22:40 IST
Tourists, non-residents left in lurch as advisory directing visitors to leave Kashmir Valley owing to 'terror threats' fuels chaos
  • Chaos erupted on Friday shortly after the Home Department issued an advisory asking tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to curtail their stay in the valley

  • The order spread like wildfire on social media, followed by a flurry of tourists leaving the Valley, anguished locals swarming at grocery shops to stock essentials, schools in a state of confusion

  • On the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, panic-stricken non-local labourers were seen waving at goods trucks, hoping to get a lift

In the streets in Srinagar, there is fear in air. Anguished residents jostle at grocery shops for their turn. Long queues of cars are seen at fuel stations, many of which have run dry after the state government’s security advisory ordered tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to leave the Jammu and Kashmir valley at the earliest.

The chaos erupted on Friday shortly after the Home Department issued an advisory asking tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible.

Tourists nonresidents left in lurch as advisory directing visitors to leave Kashmir Valley owing to terror threats fuels chaos

Indian pilgrims wait for transport as they prepare to leave Srinagar. AP

The order said that keeping in view the latest “intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible.”

The order spread like wildfire on social media, followed by a flurry of tourists leaving the Valley, anguished locals swarming at grocery shops to stock essentials, schools in a state of confusion over shutting from Saturday and fuel stations blocked by concertina wires to prevent panic buying.

Hailing from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Uday Singh Kushwah arrived in Srinagar to enjoy a Shikara ride when a message flashed on his mobile, alerting him of the state government’s security advisory.

Outside the hotels built around the Dal Lake, tourists and Amarnath pilgrims are seen waiting for their cabs which would take them to the Srinagar airport or to Jammu, and from there to other parts of the country.

“I am leaving. This has never happened before, even during bad times of 2008 and 2010 when the situation was much worse,” 52-year-old Kushwah said. “Something is going to happen," he added.

On the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, panic-stricken non-local labourers were seen waving at goods trucks, hoping to get a lift. “We arrived in Srinagar from Baramulla and are waiting to get any vehicle which would transport us from here to Jammu,” said Santosh Kumar, a painter who hails from Bihar and works in the Baramulla district. “This has never happened before. We had arrived in Kashmir only two months ago,” he added.

Tourists nonresidents left in lurch as advisory directing visitors to leave Kashmir Valley owing to terror threats fuels chaos

A restaurant on the Dal Lake bears a deserted look. Image courtesy: Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The state administration, sadly, is so helpless that the deputy commissioner of Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary tweeted that an order issued by an educational institution telling students to leave the campus, was a “miscommunication".

The State Roads Transport Corporation passenger vehicles had reached the NIT Srinagar to help transport the non-local students from the panic-plagued Valley when the Home Department's intervention came.

The order asking tourists to leave was surprising for everyone, including the mainstream politicians of Kashmir. This came after New Delhi deployed 25,000 more troops in the Valley, after initially increasing the presence of forces by 10,000 troops.

"Are they going to war with the people of Kashmir?" asked CPM leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence in Parliament over the issue. "What was the need for putting Air Force on high alert and deploying additional forces?” he further inquired.

People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti hoped the government order asking tourists to curtail their stay and leave Kashmir valley isn’t used as a “red herring to distract masses from the real issues". “Such a move will have catastrophic consequences and push Kashmiris to the brink,” Mehbooba tweeted.

In a press conference on Saturday, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said Governor Satya Pal Malik had assured them there was “no initiative in progress” to dilute Article 35A, start delimitation or trifurcate the state. “The Centre needs to the assure people of Kashmir too. We don’t want silence from the government of India, we want to hear from them in the Parliament,” he said.

Earlier this year, rumours began circulating on social media that the Supreme Court was going to strike down Article 35A of the Constitution. Dozens of protests and incidents of stone-pelting were reported from the major districts of the Valley, with people thronging markets to stock up essential supplies in preparation for a long period of shutdown and curfew.

But there are no protests or stone pelting incidents this time around. On the famed Boulevard Road along Dal Lake in Srinagar, almost every passenger vehicle is filled with tourists preparing to leave.

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