Tension prevails as Amarnath yatra ends early
Minutes after the Jammu & Kashmir government asked tourists and Amarnath yatris to cut short their stay in Kashmir, panic spread across the Valley with people queuing outside petrol pumps, ATM’s and grocery and vegetable shops to stockpile provisions.
The state’s health department has issued advisory asking its officials to store petrol and diesel for ambulances.
“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,” said an order issued by Principal Secretary, Home Department Shaleen Kabra.
With residents of Kashmir valley already on tenterhooks for the past week, the order set off a scramble for essentials. Over the past week, every single government order has been seen as a precursor to the Centre scrapping Article 35 A of the constitution that gives special privileges to permanent residents of the state. Last weekend, it was the deployment of fresh troops. A day later, it was a note from a Railway Protection Force officer to his sub-ordinates asking them to stockpile provisions. Then it was an internal memo of the police force on gathering information on mosques and their management.
“For the past several days, different orders were issued by the government but today’s order asking tourists and yatris to leave Kashmir is clear indication that the government is planning something big, so I am filing my tank. God knows when pumps will have petrol again,’’ said Shabir Ahmad who lives in the old city.
The state’s governor Satya Pal Malik reassured people earlier this week that everything was normal and that they should not believe rumours.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan refuted rumours that schools are to close. “There are no orders issued for closure of schools so people shouldn’t pay heed to these rumours.’’
Some tourists were yet to hear of the order. “I don’t know there is any advisory. If there is any advisory like this I will cut short my visit,’’ said Rakesh Kumar a tourist from Delhi who was talking a leisurely stroll on the banks of the Dal lake in Srinagar.
Another tourist who didn’t want to be named reveal his name said that he received a call from his parents from Mumbai asking to return home.
Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said on Twitter: “Friends staying in hotels in Gulmarg are being forced to leave. State road transport Corpn buses are being deployed to bus people out from Pahalgam & Gulmarg. If there is a threat to the yatra why is Gulmarg being emptied?”
Wahid Malik, President Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant owners’ Federation said that tourists resorts Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam have been emptied of tourists. “Police have advised them to leave. In Srinagar they will be leaving for airports tomorrow.”
Bilal Ahmad who owns a petrol pump said that after rumors started spreading people queued outside petrol pump. “By evening we will be running out of stock.’’
Government officials said the Srinagar Airport Director called a meeting of special airport security committee soon after government issued security advisory. Meanwhile, more paramilitary forces were rushed to different parts of the valley .And additional paramilitary forces were deployed in the local police stations. “Something is in the pipeline, but I don’t know what is it,’’ said a senior police officer.