Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

Tourists to be allowed to return to Kashmir from Thursday

India banned visitors in August days before it stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status

Indian Hindu devotees prepare to releases bowls with 'Saakh' into the Tawi River on the last day of a religious festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. EPA
Indian Hindu devotees prepare to releases bowls with 'Saakh' into the Tawi River on the last day of a religious festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. EPA

Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir are allowing tourists back into the region two months after ordering them to leave, citing security concerns.

On August 2, the local government called for holiday-makers to leave "immediately" over "terror threats" to a major Hindu pilgrimage, sending thousands scrambling for places on planes and buses.

The move came just three days before India stripped the Muslim-majority region of its statehood and special semi-autonomous status.

India imposed a security clampdown, cutting most forms of communications and detaining thousands of people.

But local governor Satya Malik said on Tuesday after a security meeting that the "Home Department's advisory asking tourists to leave the valley be lifted" from Thursday.

Mr Malik repeated New Delhi's assertions that authorities were gradually lifting the curfew and said that "all the security restrictions were removed in most parts" of the region.

Tourist operators said at the time of the ban that they had been hit hard by the sharp drop-off in visitor numbers, and were worried many people would stay away for a prolonged period of time.

Kashmir’s pristine mountainous landscape, ski resorts, lake houseboats and apple orchards have long made it a tourist attraction.

More than half-a-million people visited the valley in the first seven months of this year, official data showed.

In addition, some 340,000 religious tourists were also visiting the valley in July before their Hindu pilgrimage was called off due to the terror claims.

Just 150 foreign travellers visited Kashmir after August 5, when New Delhi scrapped its autonomy, until the end of the month, the figures showed.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark for two wars between the nuclear-armed foes.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in an uprising against Indian rule since 1989, most of them civilians.

Updated: October 8, 2019 01:32 PM

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