Post Advisory: ensure safe return of tourists, pilgrims

When even a cursory comparison of security arrangement made this year for the annual pilgrimage of Shree Amarnath Shrine in Kashmir with the previous years is made, it would be safely deduced that never were the arrangements so high as this year . Having said so, it leads to less of any speculations about the efficacy and the need of an advisory having been issued by the state Government to the pilgrims as also to the tourists to cut short their stay in Kashmir and manage to leave as early as possible back home . There were reportedly valid and confirmed inputs about the possibility of a massive terror attack on the pilgrims undertaking the yatra which have been corroborated on ground by a cache of arms and ammunition , the sophisticated one, like Pakistan made land mine and an American made telescopic sniper rifle somewhere en-route to the holy shrine all recovered by the security forces.
Needless to add, the pilgrims have been attacked many a time during the last few years including the latest in July 2017 when 8 Hindu pilgrims were killed on returning from the pilgrimage . Any amount of taking pre-emptive measures to thwart any terror attack to harm lives, be it pilgrims, tourists and the local people , cannot be criticised as human lives matter much more than anything and any misgivings needed to be put to rest and at best overlooked. This must be seen in the light of the information shared by The General Officer Commanding 15 Corps in a press conference in Srinagar on August 2 that Pakistan Army and terrorists were desperate to disrupt peace in Kashmir and were attempting to attack the Amarnath Yatra. Under the circumstances when the highway and the foot tracks of the Yatra were reportedly searched properly and thoroughly and the sanitization operation was still in progress, it is a natural corollary for the advisory having been issued in the interests of the tourists and the yatris.
No Government would like to disturb the holidaying plans of the tourists as measures are otherwise taken to promote tourism in the state which has been facing a slowdown especially in Kashmir valley due to the disturbed conditions but when confirmed intelligence inputs of terror threats are received at the concerned quarters in the Government , then such measures as mentioned in the advisory are necessitated to be taken which speaks for the cutting short the stay in and visit to famous tourist resorts like Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg etc in the valley by the tourists.
The other part of the matter is total unpreparedness, if not sheer recklessness on the part of the Government in not making reasonably sufficient arrangements for the return journey of the pilgrims and other tourists. The confusion resulted in the pressing of a sort of panic button resulting in the exorbitant travel charges the hapless pilgrims and tourists had to undergo for returning from Srinagar. About the role of the Airlines operators, less said the better as most of the operators make the best ( read the worst) of such situations where they should have instead demonstrated their philanthropic response by not charging as high as Rs.25000 per seat from Srinagar to Jammu. How come the same fare only two days back was just Rs.5000 and if charging five times as much for no reason, is not fleecing the passengers, what else would it be called? The Government must seriously look into it as just by asking people to leave, its responsibility does not end. Just see the condition of people at Jammu Railway station and even at Bus depots where confusion, scramble for tickets and seats , absence of eating and staying arrangements etc present a situation of total chaos and mess. The Government, therefore, must take immediate steps for safe and secure return of all such people who had abruptly to disrupt their stay in Kashmir valley and return home.
In the meantime, amidst rumour mill being active and people in the valley making panic purchases of dry rations and queuing up at petrol pumps, former CM Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have met the Governor to discuss the ‘prevailing situation’ which they termed as panic ‘never seen before’. Governor Satya Pal Malik is reported to have assured the delegation that there were no reasons to believe in rumours but every reason to remain calm and composed.