Tourists, Yatris leave Kashmir in large numbers

Sanjay Nahar, a Pune resident – who works for an NGO dealing with the betterment of Kashmiri students there, had to purchase three tickets for Srinagar- Delhi air-travel worth Rs 20,000 per head to ensure that his family, which was visiting the Valley for last 10 days is back home soon.

For last three-days, Nahar has been anxious. Nahar said his wife and mother-in-law had to cut-short their tour itinerary after the government order asking tourists and Amarnath Yatris to curtail their Kashmir visit.

“Being away from the family, I was really tense on how to get them back to our home town. I am relaxed now that they have reached Delhi and will be on the way home soon. Last 48 hours have been full of anxiety and fear,” Nahar said.

Nahar who has been a frequent visitor to the Valley for social work says he is keen but apprehensive to visit Kashmir along with a television news crew. “A TV news crew is keen that I accompany them to the Valley. I have been calling many friends in the Valley to ask if I can visit. In last 25 years this is the most fearful time I have come across,” said Nahar.  

With the air abuzz with speculations, Kashmir continued to be gripped in panic on Sunday as tourists and Amarnath yatris continued to leave the Valley.  A large number of tourists, students and labourers were seen leaving Kashmir. In order to ensure that air-travel from Kashmir is affordable, government-owned carrier Air India on Sunday capped airfares on the Srinagar sector. Union Ministry of Civil Aviation on micro-blogging site Twitter said Air India and several other airlines had agreed to cap the airfares from and to Srinagar.   “Heeding to the advice of Honorable Minister  @HardeepSPuri, airlines have agreed to take steps to put cap on airfare to/ from Srinagar @airindiain  has reduced fares to Rs 6715 Srinagar to Delhi and Rs 6899 Delhi to Srinagar till 15th August,” read the tweet.

Amid speculations, people continued to throng markets to make purchase of essential commodities including petrol. Kashmir has remained on the edge since Friday after an order asking tourists and Amarnath yatris to leave the Valley triggered panic among the residents as they started stocking up dry ration and essentials, fearing long law and order disturbance.  The state government issued an advisory to Amarnath pilgrims and tourists to curtail their stay in Kashmir immediately. Serpentine queues of people was also witnessed at ration depots and cooking gas refill centres with empty LPG cylinders. “I visited the market continuously for last few days to purchase stocks of food and medicines. No one is sure of what will happen so it is important to keep stock of all essentials,” said Basit Ahmad, a Hyderpora resident.

Several families that had planned marriage celebrations around these days have now cancelled or modified the plans. “Dear guests please consider all our functions on 4th, 5th and 6th of August for wedding cancelled due to the prevailing circumstances. Nikah will continue as scheduled. Apologies for the inconvenience,” read a post on social networking site Facebook.