India’s government on Friday asked hundreds of thousands tourists and Hindu pilgrims visiting a shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir to “curtail their stay” and return home as soon as possible amid concern over security threats.
The Jammu and Kashmir state government cited “the prevailing security situation” and “intelligence inputs of terror threats” against Hindus participating in the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine. The 45-day pilgrimage to the mountainous cave started on July 1, drawing about 300,000 pilgrims so far.
Read more: India and Pakistan’s troubled history
The advisory comes a week after New Delhi deployed 10,000 more soldiers to the Himalayan territory that has experienced years of deadly fighting with Muslim rebels.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan both claim the whole of divided Kashmir, over which they have fought two of three wars since independence in 1947.
In recent months, there have been nearly daily clashes between Indian soldiers and militants, which New Delhi says are backed by Pakistan. Islamabad denies the accusations, saying its support is only political.
Most Kashmiris want the territory to be united with Pakistan or ruled as an independent country.
Kashmiris fearful of crackdown
The travel advisory and troop buildup are likely to escalate tensions in a region already rocked by regular protests against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority territory.
The new deployment has stirred anxiety among residents that Indian security forces are planning another major crackdown and a curfew may be imposed. Residents in the region have reportedly stocked up on basic essentials and lined up at gas stations to fill their vehicles.
Regional leaders are also concerned that the military buildup, and rumors that more reinforcements will follow, presage a major announcement by the central government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in its election manifesto earlier this year vowed to amend the constitution to remove decades-old special rights for the people of the state.
This includes Article 35A, which prevents people from outside the state from buying property or claiming government jobs there.
cw/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)