Srinagar: Chaos reigned at Srinagar airport on Saturday, a day after the government asked Amarnath pilgrims and tourists to leave the Kashmir Valley “immediately”.
The unprecedented advisory on Friday came amid intelligence inputs of terror threats in the troubled state. It told pilgrims and tourists to cut short their stay and return.
Following the notification, hundreds of tourists and pilgrims rushed to the Srinagar airport on Saturday morning, triggering confusion, NDTV reported.
“We watched the news at 8:30 pm yesterday. We felt that something was wrong here. So we decided to return. We were planning to stay here for two more days,” a woman told NDTV. She and her family were yet to get a ticket to Mumbai.
Airlines To Rescue
Following the notification, aviation regulator DGCA (directorate General Of Civil Aviation) on Friday had asked airlines to be ready to operate additional flights from Srinagar if the need arises, news agency PTI reported.
Airlines such as Air India, IndiGo and Vistara have announced that given the turmoil, they were temporarily waiving off cancellation and rescheduling charges for flights to and from Jammu and Kashmir.
On Friday, scores of vehicles carrying pilgrims and tourists drove out of the valley. It was relatively easier for the Amarnath pilgrims in the Pahalgam base camp to pack up and go as the south Kashmir area is closer to Jawahar Tunnel, which is the exit point of the valley.
“We had the helicopter tickets to Amaranth today. But after the panic attack by the media last evening, our family back home told us to return as soon as possible…,” Manish Agarwal, a pilgrim from Chhattisgarh, told NDTV.
“I’ve been taking the Amarnath Yatra for 20 years. But never have we felt like this,” another man said.
Guv: Stay Calm
Late Friday evening, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik asked a delegation of state politicians to “maintain calm and not believe rumours” that are circulating in Kashmir. Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Shah Faesal, Sajjad Lone and Imran Ansari had approached the Governor for a meeting over the “panic” in the Valley.
Students of NIT, Srinagar, who are from outside the state, too are leaving the valley. However, officials said that there is no advisory to shut down educational institutions.
The advisory, which appeared to indicate an exceptional security scenario, set off panic among the locals too. People were seen lining up at departmental stores, ATMs and pharmacies to stock up dry ration and essentials. Petrol pumps also witnessed a huge rush of people. Some waited for hours in queues only to find that fuel was over.
The advisory for pilgrims and tourists was put out barely half-an-hour after the army and the state police displayed a landmine and a sniper rifle to reporters, saying there were “confirmed intelligence reports” that terrorists backed by the Pakistan army were trying to disrupt the Amarnath Yatra.