Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday asked a delegation of politicians from the Valley to “maintain calm and not believe rumours” circulating in the state after the government asked tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to curtail their trip following intelligence inputs about “terror threats”, News18 reported
Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti, Peoples Conference Chairperson Sajjad Gani Lone, former minister Imran Raza Ansari and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement Chairperson Shah Faesal met Malik on Friday evening and asked him to dispel the rumours.
The governor told the leaders there were “serious and credible inputs” available to security agencies. “It is in this context that the government had issued an advisory asking yatris and tourists to return as soon as possible,” read a statement issued by Malik’s office. “These are a vulnerable group of people who do not know the area and are extremely vulnerable to a terrorist or a ‘fidayeen’ attack.”
The governor said the state was responsible for providing security to citizens. “Therefore, as a precautionary measure, yatris and tourists have been asked to return,” he added. “This is to ensure that no terrorist attack takes place on them.”
Malik said unnecessary panic was being created “by linking this to all kinds of other issues”. “A pure security measure is being mixed up with issues with which it has no connection,” he added. “That is the cause of the panic.” The governor reiterated there were no plans to do away with Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives exclusive rights to the state’s residents in government jobs and land.
The statement was issued even as the top leadership of the Congress met in New Delhi to discuss the situation. The Opposition party urged the Bharatiya Janata Party government not to take any decision that could “precipitate a deep crisis”, and asked it to maintain “Constitutional guarantees” given to Jammu and Kashmir, The Indian Express reported.
Before meeting the governor, Mufti held a press conference where she said New Delhi seemed to be preparing “to rob” the people of the state of “whatever little is left to protect their unique identity”.
“Ideally some sort of clarification should have been issued,” she said. “Instead a misinformation campaign is being run while an uneasy calm prevails in Kashmir.”
The state government issued the advisory moments after security forces alleged that Pakistan-based militants backed by the country’s Army were plotting attacks on the Amarnath Yatra. Lieutenant General KJS Dhillon, in a press conference in Srinagar, claimed “mines and ammunition, had been recovered” on the Yatra route along with bombs. A landmine with Pakistan ordnance factory markings and an M-24 American sniper rifle with a telescopic sight were also found.
In recent days, deployment of additional troops in the Valley has triggered speculations in the region. Earlier on Friday, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said the decision was based on the security situation in the Valley and requirements of rotation.
DGCA asks airlines to be ready to operate additional flights
Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Friday advised airlines to be prepared to operate additional flights from Srinagar airport if the need arises to fly out pilgrims and tourists from the Valley, ANI reported.
Airlines also announced they would give full fee waiver on cancellation and rescheduling of all flights to and from Srinagar. “In view of the current security situation in Srinagar and the government advisory regarding it, we are providing a full fee waiver on rescheduling/cancellation for all flights to/from Srinagar till Aug 9, 2019,” IndiGo said on Twitter,
“Due to prevailing security situation in Kashmir, we are waiving change and cancellation fees for flights to/from Jammu and Kashmir for next seven days (till August 9, 2019). Only fare difference, if any, will be applicable for date changes,” Vistara tweeted.
Air India also said it would provide full fee waiver for rescheduling or cancellation of flights to and from Srinagar till August 15.