After 2 months of ban, tourists to be allowed in Jammu and Kashmir from Thursday

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After 2 months of ban, tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday

Tourists warned by the government to leave Jammu and Kashmir just days before the state was stripped of its special status will be welcomed back from Thursday, Governor Satya Pal Malik said on Monday.

The Governor, in a major step towards restoring normalcy in the restive region, recalled a security advisory issued over two months ago after holding a security and situation review meeting with his advisors and the chief secretary. There were no further details about why the advisory would be lifted this week.

“The Governor directed that the Home Department’s advisory asking tourists to leave the valley be lifted immediately. This will be done w.e.f. 10.10.2019,” the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s information department said.

The government had asked the tourists to curtail their stay in the Valley “immediately” soon after it took the step to call off the annual Amarnath Yatra on August 2, citing “intelligence inputs of terror threats”. Within three days of the move, the Parliament nullified Article 370 of the Constitution that accorded special status to the state and divided it into two union territories.

The administration had also imposed massive security restrictions – arrest of the state’s political leadership, snapping of phone and telephone lines and deployment of additional troops – to prevent any backlash to the controversial move.

Ever since, the Kashmir Valley has been reeling under an unprecedented communication and security clampdown. While some of the restrictions have been eased, particularly in Jammu, the Valley remains largely cut off without mobile and internet services.

Tourist operators had told the media in late August they were badly hit by the sharp drop-off in visitor numbers, and were worried many people would stay away for a prolonged period of time.

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More than half-a-million people visited the valley in the first seven months of this year, according to official data. In addition, some 340,000 religious tourists were also visiting the valley in July before their pilgrimage was called off due to the terror claims.

Just 150 foreign travellers visited Kashmir after August 5, the figures showed.

Over the last one week, the administration has taken some steps to test the uneasy calm in the state as it has come under increasing international scrutiny for the prolonged clampdown, that has now lasted 64 days.

The first step was the announcement of the Block Development Council elections in the state, followed by the permission granted to a National Conference delegation to meet detained leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah.

An official spokesperson said the Governor was informed at Monday’s meeting that as Block Development Council (BDC) elections, scheduled to be held on October 24, are party-based, the delegations of parties having their leaders in jail are being allowed to meet party presidents once so that they can take decision on elections and authorise someone to approve candidates.

The Governor has been holding situation-cum-security review meetings daily for two hours generally from 6 to 8 pm since August 5. The meetings initially focused on reviewing the security scenario after imposition of restrictions in the wake of constitutional changes, the spokesman said.

Some of the major decisions taken in the past in the situation-cum-security review meetings include reopening of higher secondary schools, colleges and universities, restarting public transport and opening of additional travel counters at Srinagar’s Tourist Reception Centre, the spokesperson said.

The Governor was on Monday also apprised of the progress in apple procurement which has crossed 850 tonnes and worth Rs 3.25 crores, he said, adding some changes in the rates of apple are being made which will be announced shortly.

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