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Wednesday , November 20 2019

India to lift travel advisory on Kashmir

FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, file photo, Tourists in Shikaras, a traditional gondola, cross the Dal Lake as they prepare to leave Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir are allowing tourists back into the region two months after ordering them to leave, citing security concerns. The local government had instructed tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave on Aug. 2, three days before India stripped the Muslim-majority region of its statehood and special semi-autonomous status. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)

SRINAGAR, India, Oct 8, (RTRS): India will on Thursday lift an advisory asking tourists and pilgrims to leave Jammu & Kashmir, further rolling back steps taken during a crackdown launched before the government took away the Muslim majority state’s special status two months ago.

Even as the state government issued its statement on Monday night saying the travel advisory would be lifted, persistent security risks were manifest as a military official said a “terrorist” had been killed in a firefight the same evening. The dead militant was a member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and was the fifth militant to killed since the crackdown began, a police officer told Reuters, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.

The firefight took place in Pulwama district, some 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Srinagar, the state’s summer capital, and in the same area where in February a suicide bomber rammed a car into a bus carrying Indian paramilitary police.

Thousands of Indian tourists, pilgrims and workers had fled Jammu & Kashmir in early August after authorities issued a security alert over possible militant attacks by Pakistan-backed groups, assertions rejected by Islamabad.

Telephone and internet services were suspended and public movements restricted in some areas to prevent protests hours before India announced it had revoked the region’s special status. Some curbs have since been lifted. On Sunday, some 15 members of the main National Conference party were allowed to meet two senior leaders detained in the crackdown.

However, mobile and internet services are largely still blocked in the Kashmir valley. Kashmir touts itself as a “Paradise on Earth” and is known for its mountains, glaciers and Dal Lake, a favourite destination centuries ago for Mughal emperors escaping the summer heat of India’s plains. However, Britain and other countries still have advisories in place discouraging their citizens from travelling to Jammu and Kashmir, where a grenade attack injured 10 people on the weekend.

The “terrorist” killed on Monday night died during a “firefight” after the army set up checkpoints and laid ambushes in orchards, a military official said, declining to be named. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both claim the territory in full. More than 40,000 people have been killed in an insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir since 1989. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says scrapping state’s special status was necessary to integrate it fully into the rest of India and spur development. Critics say the decision will alienate people further and fuel armed resistance.

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