Srinagar: Tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims started leaving the Kashmir Valley on Saturday following the state government's advisory asking them to cut short their stay even as Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said there is no need to panic. The advisory to leave had cited security concerns and intelligence inputs about the possibility of terror attacks.
Amid rumours of plans to repeal Article 370 and 35A, which allow the state special status and privileges, Malik said that the administration has no knowledge of any changes to constitutional provisions.
Despite the Governor's assurance, the Congress and the National Conference indicated that they would seek clarifications from the Centre when Parliament meets again on Monday. NC leader Omar Abdullah said the party needed the assurance as the Governor is not the final word on J&K.
Malik told a delegation led by Abdullah that a pure security measure is being mixed up with issues with no connection. “That is the cause of the panic," said the Raj Bhavan in a statement.
"There were credible inputs which were available to the security agencies regarding terrorist attacks on the Amarnath Yatra. There has been intensified shelling on the LoC by Pakistan, which was responded to effectively by the Army," said Malik.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that no unilateral decision is taken at any level that impinges upon the current constitutional arrangement and complexion of the state.
Abdullah said he has asked party MPs to move a motion in Parliament on Monday seeking a statement from the Union government on the situation that has developed in the state over the past few weeks.
The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) also expressed concern.
“No one knows what is happening. There is uncertainty. We are seeing this type of situation for the first time and it has raised questions. We want the Centre as well as the state government to clarify what is going on," said JKPCC chief GA Mir.
Mir said the deployment of additional forces, orders by different departments, and the advisory asking tourists and pilgrims to leave have created panic.
"All this leads to speculation that something is happening behind the curtain,” he added.
Condemning the government's decision to curtail the Amarnath Yatra, the Congress also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in Parliament on the current situation and expressed apprehensions about a "misadventure" by the Union Home Ministry.
Senior party leader and former home minister P Chidambaram cautioned the Home Ministry against any misadventure in the state related to Articles 35A and 370.
Referring to the advisory, former chief minister of the state Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Amarnath yatra has never been curtailed in the history of the country, not even in 2000 when the biggest attack on pilgrims left over 30 people dead.
"This is unprecedented," he said.
Alleging that the BJP government at the Centre is "spoiling the image" of J&K in front of the country, he said it is trying to show that outsiders in the state are not safe even though the local people there are completely standing with the tourists and Amarnath pilgrims.
He also accused the BJP of doing politics over the issue.
"Parliament is in session. The PM should give a statement in both houses of Parliament. It is his duty," said Azad.
Replying to a question on whether the Home Ministry could be working on scrapping Article 35A, Chidambaram said, "I don't wish to anticipate what misadventure this government is planning to do in Kashmir. Most of the constitutional issues involving Kashmir are pending in the Supreme Court. It's clear to me, they are planning a misadventure in Kashmir and I warn them not to do so."
Senior party leader Karan Singh said everybody is in a state of shock after the government's advisory curtailing the Amarnath Yatra. An atmosphere of fear and apprehension has gripped the state, he said.
Tourism Kashmir Srinagar Director Nissar Wani said the state tourism department sent buses on Friday, immediately after the advisory was issued, to the tourist destinations to bring the visitors back to Srinagar. Wani said about 20,000 tourists were in Kashmir on Friday.
The United Kingdom and Germany issued advisories on Saturday warning their citizens from travelling to J&K.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Saturday advised airlines to keep fares from Srinagar in check as Amarnath pilgrims and tourists prepared to leave the Valley.
According to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), 6,216 passengers reported at the Srinagar International Airport on Saturday to travel out of the valley. Out of this, 5,829 passengers travelled by 32 scheduled flights. The remaining 387 passengers were accommodated in four Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft and flown to various destination like Jammu, Pathankot and Hindon.
The Railways also announced that no cancellation charge will be taken from passengers till Tuesday morning if they cancel reserved tickets booked for their journey originating from Jammu, Katra and Uddhampur stations, sources in the ministry said.
(With inputs from agencies)