New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir will be open to tourists from Thursday, more than two months after a security advisory asked them to leave the state immediately due to a “terror threat”.
Governor Satya Pal Malik had on Monday lifted the restriction on entry of tourists after holding a security review meeting. The government had asked the tourists to curtail their stay in the Valley “immediately” soon after it took the step to call off the annual Amarnath Yatra on August 2, citing "intelligence inputs of terror threats”.
Within three days of the move, the Parliament effectively scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution that accorded special status to the state, and divided it into two union territories.
The administration had also imposed restrictions on movement, snapped phone and telephone lines, arrested the state’s political class and deployed additional troops to prevent any backlash to the controversial move.
Ever since, the Kashmir Valley has been reeling under an unprecedented communication and security clampdown. While some of the restrictions have been eased, particularly in Jammu, the Valley remains largely cut off without mobile and internet services.
Tourist operators had told the media in late August they were badly hit by the sharp drop-off in visitor numbers, and were worried many people would stay away for a prolonged period of time.
More than half a million people visited the valley in the first seven months of this year, according to official data. In addition, some 340,000 religious tourists were also visiting the valley in July before their pilgrimage was called off due to the terror claims. Just 150 foreign travellers visited Kashmir after August 5, the figures showed.
The measure to lift the travel ban, however, has been called half-hearted by critics, with many pointing out that hardly anyone would want to visit till the communication blackout persists.
Over the last one week, the administration has taken some steps to test the uneasy calm in the state as it has come under increasing international scrutiny for the prolonged clampdown that has now lasted 64 days.
The first step was the announcement of the Block Development Council elections in the state, followed by the permission granted to a National Conference delegation to meet detained leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah.
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On Wednesday, the administration re-opened higher secondary schools, colleges and universities. In Srinagar, security forces were stationed outside the prestigious Sri Pratap College and were allowing students on the campus after checking their identity cards.
The administration will also release three political detainees on Thursday after making them sign a bond, promising “good behaviour”.