National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday met Governor Satya Pal Malik at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar to discuss the current security situation in the state, NDTV reported.
This came a day after an unprecedented advisory from the state government asking Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and other tourists in the state to cut short their stay in the Valley after intelligence inputs said there were “specific terror threats”. Hours before Abdullah met the governor, the government suspended the Machail Yatra in Kishtwar district because of security concerns.
“We wanted to know about the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” Abdullah told reporters. “Wherever we try to find the truth, we do not get any answers. When we ask officials, they say something is happening, but nobody knows what is actually happening.”
The National Conference leader said the governor had reiterated what he had said on Friday. “We also asked him about rumours of Article 35A and Article 370 being removed and about delimitation and even trifurcation... to which he assured that no such thing is happening,” Abdullah added.
Article 35A grants special rights and privileges pertaining to jobs, and property ownership, among other things, to those defined as “permanent residents” of the state, while Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state.
“We want that when on Monday, when Parliament starts functioning, Centre should give a statement on what was the need for the order to end yatra and evacuate tourists,” the National Conference leader said. “We want to hear it from the Parliament that there is no need for people to be afraid.”
Abdullah said the governor “was not the final word on Jammu and Kashmir”. “The final word on J&K is the Government of India,” ANI quoted him as saying. “Therefore, more than what governor tells us publicly, I definitely would like to hear from government publicly that there is nothing people have to worry about.”
Centre is spreading fear, says Congress
The Congress also criticised the central government on Saturday. “People of Jammu and Kashmir are scared because of the advisory issued by the home ministry,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a press conference, News18 reported. “In the past it has never happened where such an advisory was issued where tourists are being called back. Government of India is spreading fear with this advisory and also spreading hatred.”
Congress leaders Karan Singh and P Chidambaram were also present at the press conference. “Everyone is in a state of shock, people are living in fear,” Singh said, adding that the government should stopping spreading fear. “We are totally baffled, why are people of Jammu & Kashmir are being forced to live in this manner. Government should explain the reason behind it.”
Chidamabaram claimed he had warned the government against embarking “on any misadventure but they did not listen”. The party also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a statement on the situation.
Growing uneasiness in Valley
Abdullah’s meeting with the governor and the Congress’ remarks came in the background of growing uneasiness in the Valley over increased deployment of troops. It triggered speculation in the region about a major change in the offing.
Following the government advisory on Friday, a number of tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims were also seen waiting for means of transport to leave the Valley on Saturday morning. The government also arranged buses to move tourists to Srinagar airport and Jammu. Many tourists are reportedly paying extra money for airline tickets.
On Friday evening, Governor Satya Pal Malik asked a delegation of politicians from the Valley to “maintain calm and not believe rumours” circulating in the state. The governor told the delegation that the state was responsible for providing security to citizens. Earlier in the day, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had said the decision to deploy additional troops in the Valley was based on the security situation and requirements of rotation.
Some countries such as New Zealand, England and Germany 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.”
“Urgently discouraging travelling to Jammu and Kashmir following a security alert by government,” Germany said in its travel advisory, according to News18. “Those who are currently in Kashmir are encouraged to leave the state”.