Petrol pumps were inundated by large crowds, some waiting for hours only to be told that the fuel was over. (Photo: PTI)
Srinagar: Several hundred tourists and Amarnath pilgrims are now looking for avenues to leave the Kashmir Valley after the government on Friday asked the pilgrims to "immediately" cut short their trip and return to their own states, in an unprecedented advisory amidst intelligence inputs of terror threats.
Saturday morning was a hotbed to confusion at the Srinagar airport as tourists rushed there after hearing about the government notification. "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.
Aviation regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) on Friday asked airlines to be ready to operate additional flights from Srinagar if the need arises, news agency PTI reported quoting a source.
Airlines such as Air India, IndiGo and Vistara have already announced zero cancellation and rescheduling charges temporarily for flights to and from Jammu and Kashmir after the terror threat notification.
On Friday itself, soon after the government’s announcement, many of the pilgrims who had their own vehicle facilities 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 base camp is closer to the Jawahar Tunnel that 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.
Late on Friday evening, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik asked a delegation of politicians in the state 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 officials have said that there is no advisory to shut down educational institutions. Schools in the region remain open today, reported NDTV.
The advisory from the Indian government which appeared to indicate a serious security threat issue in the Valley, set of panic among the locals too. People were seen lining up at departmental stores, ATMs and pharmacies to stock up for the long run. Petrol pumps were inundated by large crowds, some waiting for hours only to be told that the fuel was over.
The advisory for pilgrims and tourists was put out barely half-an-hour after the army and the Jammu and Kashmir 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.