In a statement today, JKPM General Secretary Shehla Rashid Shora said that, “The central government is infringing upon the religious rights of Amarnath yatris by forcing them to cut short their pilgrimage. It is a failure on part of the Modi government that, despite having hundreds of thousands of troops, despite putting massive curbs on civilian movement on highways, and despite having the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the government is unable to ensure the safety of those devotees who want to perform their religious obligations! It shows the incompetence of the central government and its disregard for people’s religious rights.”
Also criticising the move to evacuate tourists and travellers from the valley, Shora said that, “It is unconstitutional and unlawful on part of the government to enter hotels and force travellers and visitors to leave. Police personnel have entered hotels and forced them to turn out guests. As one tourist put it, this is a government sponsored chaos! No law enforcement authority has a right to enter hotel premises and force any citizen to leave.”
Terming such coercive actions a “cultural shock”, Shora said that, “It might be acceptable to turn Kashmiris out of hotels in mainland India, but it is against Kashmiri culture to turn out guests. Such actions by the government are condemnable and culturally insensitive. At best, governments can issue advisories and leave it to people to decide. But they cannot constitutionally ask citizens to leave. Such actions are only heard of in case of foreigners. Only foreigners visiting a country abroad can be deported in the manner in which non-local tourists have been treated.”
Calling for compensation to hotel owners whose guests were asked to cut short their trips, she said that, “The government should compensate hotel and guest house owners for the losses incurred due to early checkout. The government has done an irreparable damage to the tourism industry, perhaps on purpose. Hopefully, tourists will see through these political games and return soon.”
Expressing concern over the developments in her alma mater, NIT Srinagar, she said, “On behalf of my party, I express solidarity with students at NIT Srinagar, Kashmir Government Polytechnic and Islamic University of Science & Technology, who have been forced to vacate their hostels. It is unfortunate that the government itself created chaos and rumours, allowed them to spread and facilitated the exodus of students. If the government didn’t want students to flee, it should have proactively stepped in to dispel ‘rumours’ and urged the students to stay. Students should have been shielded from the politics of the state.”
“In short, the BJP government has failed yatris, tourists and students alike. People should remember this chaos and incompetence and not forget the failures of the central government. For the locals, not even as much as an advisory has been issued. They are neither being told what to do nor being reassured by the administration. Kashmiris are running around in chaos, stocking up rations and fuel, preparing for war-like eventualities. Expectant mothers are under extreme stress due to the uncertainty. By facilitating the exit of non-locals, while leaving the locals helpless and confused, the central government is trying to re-enact the exodus of 1990 which also happened when the state was under Governor’s rule,” Shora said.