Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

Amarnath Yatra off, Kashmir on tenterhooks

Tourists and pilgrims were asked to leave the Valley fuelling fears in Kashmir that 'something big' was being planned

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar
  • Published 3.08.19, 3:12 AM
  • Updated 3.08.19, 3:12 AM
  • a min read
  •  
The rifle that officials said was US-made (PTI)

Tourists and Amarnath pilgrims were on Friday asked to leave the Valley and word spread that the army and the air force had been put on high alert, fuelling fears in Kashmir that “something big” was being planned.

“Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir valley, 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,” an order issued by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary, state home department, said.

Tourism industry leaders said that never before had such an advisory been issued.

The advisory came hours after top officers of the army, police and the CRPF held a joint news conference to claim they had foiled a militant plan to disrupt the Yatra.

“We had specific inputs that Pakistani militants might try to disrupt the Yatra and do physical harm,” the army’s Valley chief, Lt Gen. K.J.S. Dhillon, said. A US-made rifle and IEDs with Pakistani markers were found near the Yatra route, he said.

Amid reports that the defence forces had been put on alert, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: “What ‘ongoing situation’ in Kashmir would require the army AND the air force to be put on alert? This isn’t about 35A or delimitation. This sort of alert, if actually issued, would be about something very different.”

Speculation has been rife that the Centre is planning to scrap Article 35A, which gives the state special rights. But another rumour gaining currency is that it might turn Jammu into a state and the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh into separate Union territories.

The Valley has been on edge since the Centre last Friday deployed 10,000 more troops. Word came on Thursday night that another 25,000 troops were being rushed. Residents are stocking supplies and bracing for possible unrest.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti met the governor late in the night and requested him to dispel rumours that have spread panic. Earlier in the day, she had said: “The economy is in free fall but I hope like always Kashmir isn’t used as a red herring to distract masses from the real issues….”