A day after the Jammu and Kashmir authorities issued a security advisory, suspending the Amarnath Yatra, and asked tourists to leave the state at the earliest, tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims started to leave the Kashmir Valley on Saturday.
The fresh order triggered panic among the residents as they started stocking up dry ration and essentials, fearing long law and order disturbance.
'Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible,' an order issued by Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra read.
The order led to panic in Kashmir which has remained tense for the past few days after the Centre ordered deployment of 100 companies of additional troops in the valley.
All officials at various tourist destinations have been informed to clear tourists in their areas.
However, the sudden turn of events has left many unhappy, including tourists and the business community.
"I have been visiting Kashmir for past so many years, but have never seen such an irresponsible behaviour by the government," Anil Verma, a tourist from Delhi, said..
Another tourist, Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Haryana, said the government order was "unprecedented". "We have been coming here for many years, but we have never seen such an advisory from the government. This is unprecedented. We were enjoying ourselves, but the order has led to chaos and fear," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir tourism department sent buses on Friday, immediately after the advisory was issued, to different tourist destinations to bring the tourists back to Srinagar, director, Tourism Kashmir, Nissar Wani, said. He said about 20,000-22,000 tourists were in Kashmir on Friday.
Large queues were seen outside petrol pumps in Srinagar as people rushed to buy essentials fearing an impending crisis.
The advisory was issued by the state administration after the Army on Friday said Pakistan-based terrorists were planning to target the Amarnath Yatra.
"While most of tourists have reached Srinagar or have left the Valley, some of them are still staying. Few tourists had gone trekking in Pahalgam area and have not yet returned to their bases. Once they return, we will tell them to leave," Wani said.
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government advisory has poured water over the state government's efforts to promote tourism and broken the back of the tourism sector. It has, "in a single fell swoop, caused irreversible damage to the economy of the state", the KCCI said. KCCI president Sheikh Aashiq said a breakdown of the economy was "imminent".
An official at Srinagar airport said Indian Air Force flights have been pressed into service "as per requirement".
With inputs from PTI