9,400 tourists, yatries leave Kashmir after govt advisory: Report

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Srinagar   

Ever since the circular signed by Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary to Government (Home Department) cautioned, “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 valley has gone into a state of chaos and panic, reported Outlook Traveller.

Tourists from European country Belgium look on as they sit inside a car to leave Kashmir in Srinagar on August 3, 2019. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

According to a highly placed source in the Jammu and Kashmir police ranks, as many as 9,400 tourists—2,956 by air–were evacuated from the valley. This is the first time that the yatra has been called off, the first time that the pilgrims are being evacuated and the first time that non-locals are being asked to vacate the state. The yatra came under an attack in the year 2017 and yet it went on unabated, however with stricter security measures in place, Outlook Traveller reported.

“We have evacuated all the pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra using choppers. Pilgrims were brought to the Srinagar airport, either via air or by road. They have been sent back using the Indian Air Force carriers or commercial flights. Airlines such as Vistara and Air India provided rescheduled tickets at no extra cost. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has asked the airlines to rein in the surge in airfares to help the Amarnath pilgrims get home,” Outlook Traveller quoted the Additional Deputy General Police of Kashmir Muneer Ahmed Khan as saying.

“For those who did not have flight tickets, the Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation organised special buses to take the tourists and the yatris out of Kashmir,” the ADGP added.

While the fares for Indigo and Air Asia, Srinagar-Delhi flights started from Rs 40,000 for August 4, Air India has decided to cap the fare at Rs 6,715 from Srinagar to Delhi and Rs 6,899 from Delhi to Srinagar till August 15. OT has also learnt that the Indian Railways is also contemplating waving off cancellation charges for passengers travelling from Jammu and Kashmir for the next 48 hours, Outlook Traveller reported.

The report quoted Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar as saying, “We had not expected the Yatra to be called off. Once the circular was out, there was a lot of confusion among people. The locals thronged to petrol pumps to have their fill. National Institute of Technology, Srinagar also asked non-local students to vacate premises until further notice. We are doing everything in our control to bring back normalcy to the region.”

However, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australian governments have issued travel advisory suggesting their countrymen to not visit the Valley in the near future. They have also asked their people to move out of the Valley at the earliest.

According to the report, the highly placed source in the Jammu and Kashmir police ended the conversation suggesting, “It’s better to avoid visiting Kashmir till August 15.”

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