The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday suspended the annual Machail Mata Yatra in Kishtwar district, citing security concerns, PTI reported. This came a day after the government asked tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to curtail their trip following intelligence inputs about “terror threats”.
“The yatra has been suspended with immediate effect due to security reasons,” Deputy Commissioner of Kishtwar Angrez Singh Rana told PTI.
Devotees on their way to the shrine were told to get back while the rest were stopped at Udhampur, which is the starting point of the 320-km journey, News18 reported. A helicopter service from Kishtwar to Machail was also suspended, according to The Indian Express.
The 43-day pilgrimage commenced on July 25 and was scheduled to end on September 5. Thousands of devotees visit the Paddar valley during the yatra to worship at the shrine of Durga in the village of Machail.
On Friday, Governor Satya Pal Malik had asked a delegation of politicians from the Valley to “maintain calm and not believe rumours” circulating in the state after the suspension of Amarnath Yatra. The governor told the delegation that the state was responsible for providing security to citizens.
The deployment of additional troops in the Valley last week triggered speculation in the region about a major change in the offing. 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.
Some countries such as New Zealand and England updated the advisories for their citizens on Friday.
“Do not travel to Jammu and Kashmir (with the exception of the Ladakh region via Manali, or by air to Leh) due to the threat of terrorist activity and ongoing violence which remains high,” New Zealand said in its advisory.
“On August 2, Indian media reported that the government of Jammu and Kashmir had advised tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to curtail their stay in the Kashmir Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return home as soon as possible because of security threats,” the UK government’s advisory said. “The British High Commission in New Delhi is monitoring the situation. If you’re in Jammu and Kashmir, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and keep up to date with developments.”