- Tourists, pilgrims asked to leave Kashmir over intel about terror threats
- Centre's order has scared citizens, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said
- "Government is trying to create an atmosphere of hate," he added
The Congress has hit out at the government after its advisory on Friday asking tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to leave the Kashmir Valley "immediately" because of new intelligence about terror threats. Anxious tourists, including some foreigners, crowded the Srinagar airport on Saturday, many without tickets for flights. Scores of vehicles carrying pilgrims and tourists drove out of the valley.
"The Home Ministry order has scared citizens. Tourists and pilgrims have never been asked to leave abruptly like this...The government is trying to create an atmosphere of hate, saying that Kashmir is unsafe for outsiders. We condemn this decision by the government of India," Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a press conference.
The advisory is seen as an unprecedented move as pilgrims and tourists have never before, even at the height of militancy, been urged to leave Kashmir, which has seen a massive build-up of troops over the past week.
Visitor numbers have been boosted by the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage, which draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. A second smaller pilgrimage, the Machail Mata Yatra, in Jammu, was also cancelled Saturday.
Local residents formed long lines outside petrol stations, food stores and ATMs on Friday night after the alert was announced. But the queues eased Saturday.
As Jammu and Kashmir politicians feared that the centre may have plans to do away with Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives exclusive rights to the state's residents in government jobs and land. Governor Satya Pal Malik said there is no plan to scrap Article 35A. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who met the Governor on Saturday, asked the centre to make a statement on in parliament on the state's special status designation.
"I don't wish to anticipate what misadventure this government is planning in Kashmir. It's clear they are planning a misadventure in Kashmir and I warn them not to," P Chidambaram of the Congress said.
In a statement, the Governor said that the state "has no knowledge of any changes to constitutional provisions" and hence no panic should be created by unnecessarily linking this security matters with all kinds of other issues.