New Delhi: From today, tourists are welcome to Jammu and Kashmir after an advisory — issued a few days before the Centre scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status — had directed all Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and tourists to leave the Valley in August. The embargo stayed for two months as the newly created union territory has been put under a communication lockdown.
Three days before the Centre moved to scrap Article 370 and bifurcate J&K into two Union Territories on August 5, the Amarnath Yatra was cut short and tourists were asked to leave, citing intelligence inputs on terror threats. Following the abrogation of Article 370, local leaders were put under house arrest and all communication channels were blocked. From October, however, things are limping back to normalcy with schools, colleges opening, political delegations being allowed to meet their detained leaders and on to the top of all the Valley finally opening its doors to travellers.
Meanwhile, Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express was inaugurated to bring Valley closer. The high-speed train brings the journey time by four hours — from 12 hours to 8 hours.
However, the embargo on tourists couldn’t deter pilgrims from visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, as situation eased in Jammu within a week. According to a report, over 62.71 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine, 15 lakh after the abrogation of Article 370.
Leaders of the National Conference have slammed the government’s decision to open the Valley for tourists now at a time when the communication blockade is yet not lifted. “How can tourists venture out to the Valley where they will remain cut off from their families and the rest of the world in absence of mobile telephony and internet — the basic modes of modern-day communication?” asked an NC spokesperson in a statement, as reported by PTI.
He said the absence of telecommunication facilities has caused enormous difficulties to the Valley residents, who feel like having been pushed to the “stone age”.