Jammu and Kashmir will be open to tourists from Thursday, after more than two months a security advisor asked them to leave the state immediately due to a “terrorist threat”.
Governor Satya Pal Malik lifted the ban on entry of tourists after a security review meeting on Monday. The government, citing “intelligence information on the threat of terror”, had asked tourists to stop their stay in the valley soon after taking the step to discontinue the annual Amarnath Yatra on 2 August.
Within three days of the move, Parliament effectively repealed Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to the state and divided it into two union territories.
The administration had also banned agitation, scrambled phones and telephone lines, arrested the state’s political class and deployed additional troops to prevent the controversial move.
Since then, the Kashmir Valley has been undergoing an unprecedented communication and security clampdown. While some restrictions have been relaxed, especially in Jammu, the Valley remains largely cut off without mobile and Internet services.
Tourist operators told the media in late August that they were badly affected by the sharp drop in visitor numbers, and worried that many would stay away for a long time.
According to official figures, more than half a million people visited the valley in the first seven months of this year. In addition, some 340,000 religious tourists were also visiting the valley in July, before their pilgrimage was called off due to terrorist claims. After 5 August, only 150 foreign travelers visited Kashmir.
However, the measure to remove the travel ban has been criticized by critics as half-baked, with many pointing out that hardly anyone would want to travel as long as communication remains dark.
For the past one week, the administration has taken some steps to calm restlessness in the state as it comes under international scrutiny for a long-running clampdown that has now lasted 64 days.
The first step was the announcement of the Block Development Council elections in the state, after which the National Conference delegation was allowed to meet detained leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah.
On Wednesday, the administration reopened higher secondary schools, colleges and universities. In Srinagar, security forces were stationed outside the prestigious Shree Pratap College and were allowing students on campus after checking their identity cards.