Anxious tourists flee occupied Kashmir after India's 'terror' warning

Published August 3, 2019
Tourists sit inside a bus as they leave Indian-occupied Kashmir in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP
Tourists sit inside a bus as they leave Indian-occupied Kashmir in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP

Thousands of tourists and students scrambled to get places on planes and buses leaving Indian-occupied Kashmir on Saturday after the Indian government warned of the threat of “terror” attacks.

Thousands of military reinforcements were arriving in the Himalayan territory, where a three-decade old insurgency has left tens of thousands dead.

The Jammu and Kashmir state government said late Friday that tourists should leave “immediately” because of new intelligence about “terror threats” to a major Hindu pilgrimage in the region.

Tourists from Belgium walk on a road as they are going to leave IOK in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP
Tourists from Belgium walk on a road as they are going to leave IOK in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP

Anxious tourists, including some foreigners, flooded the airport in Srinagar on Saturday, many without tickets for flights that day.

Visitor numbers have been boosted by the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage, which draws hundreds of thousands of Hindus each year.

Comment: 'Fear rules Kashmir as BJP goes about realising its dream'

The pilgrimage has been cancelled because of the scare. A huge security force had been guarding the route even before the alert. A second smaller pilgrimage, the Machail Mata Yatra, in Jammu region was also cancelled on Saturday.

Airport chaos

“Passengers who were scheduled to return in coming days have turned up in panic at the airport today,” said the manager of one airline operating the Delhi-Srinagar route.

“It's chaotic and not many will manage seats unless there are additional flights.”

Hundreds of Indian students from outside Kashmir were evacuated in buses.

“All the non-local students have left the campus for their respective states,” an administrative official at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar told AFP.

Kashmiri people stand in a queue at a petrol station in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP
Kashmiri people stand in a queue at a petrol station in Srinagar on Saturday. — AFP

Kashmiri residents formed long lines outside petrol stations, food stores and bank cash machines on Friday night after the alert was announced. But the queues eased Saturday.

The Indian government has admitted that 10,000 extra troops were sent to IOK a week ago. Media reports on Friday said a further 25,000 had been ordered there.

The government has declined to say how many are in the new reinforcements.

While military authorities and the state government highlighted the security risk, Kashmir politicians have raised fears that the troops are sign that the Hindu nationalist government could carry out a threat to scrap occupied Kashmir's special status under the constitution.

Political leaders in the territory have warned that cancelling constitutionally guaranteed rights, which mean only state domiciles can buy land in the region, could spark unrest.

Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik, who is named by the New Delhi government, said “unnecessary panic” was being created by “rumours”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has refused to say whether it is about to scrap the constitutional article, though he has often spoken against it.

Opinion

Civil liberties
23 Oct 2021

Civil liberties

The late I.A. Rehman is esteemed on both sides of the border.
The Hamza factor
Updated 23 Oct 2021

The Hamza factor

A new story is quietly unfolding inside the PML-N and there may yet be a surprise twist.
What should Imran Khan do?
Updated 23 Oct 2021

What should Imran Khan do?

Making a mishmash of religion and politics won’t turn Pakistan into a welfare state. Here’s what can.
Afghan health crises
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Afghan health crises

The condition and prospects of Afghanistan’s health sector are complex and grave.

Editorial

A final push
Updated 23 Oct 2021

A final push

PAKISTAN’S hopes of exiting the so-called FATF grey list have been shattered once again. The global money...
23 Oct 2021

Kabul visit

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s flying visit to Kabul on Thursday is the first official high-level...
23 Oct 2021

Baqir’s blooper

THE remarks made by State Bank governor Reza Baqir at a London press conference have hit a raw nerve in Pakistan. In...
Spate of attacks
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Spate of attacks

Following a near-constant decline since 2016, the year 2021 has witnessed a precipitous rise in violence-related fatalities in KP.
22 Oct 2021

Libel suits

THE outcome of two libel cases recently decided by courts in England should be edifying for the government — if it...
22 Oct 2021

Education losses

A NEW report on the education losses suffered by Pakistani children due to pandemic-induced school closures sheds...