With curfew and shutdown continuing in Kashmir over the killing of a separatist militant for almost a month now, tourism has suffered a major blow in the Valley.
Trouble began in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on July 8 when security forces gunned down 22-year-old Burhan Wani, leader of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a group fighting India over control of the Muslim-majority region.
'90 per cent of visitors have already left'
Violent protests in parts of the Valley, a subsequent curfew and a shutdown called by separatist leaders against Wani's killing have kept the tourists away.
Tourists who had made bookings for July-August period are cancelling them while those in the state are cutting short their trips and leaving. Reportedly, 90 per cent of the visitors have already left.
It has been days since some bus and cab drivers saw any tourists. People earning their livelihoods from the tourism sector urged the government today to take steps to restore normalcy at the earliest.
"The shutdown in Srinagar has had a drastic effect on tourism. Tourists are cancelling their packages and vehicles are not plying. Drivers and travel agents have been sitting idle for the last month or month-and-a-half," said a travel agent, Sweet Ishar.
A driver, Sayed Zaki Haider said that the locals were losing out a lot of business as it was peak tourist season.
"Small vehicles would ferry people from Poonch to Kashmir or to deliver things like fruits as it is peak season. People who earned their livelihood from all such activities have been badly affected," said Haider.
Uneasy calm prevails, curfew extended to more areas
Meanwhile, an uneasy calm continues to blanket Srinagar, the summer capital of the state.
Armed police personnel patroll deserted markets and roads as residents largely stay indoors. Barricades have been pulled up and barbed wires have been laid out on roads and in sensitive areas.
Curfew was extended to more areas of Kashmir today to thwart a planned march by separatists to Hazratbal shrine here even as normal life in the Valley remained paralysed for the 28th consecutive day.
"Curfew has been imposed in entire Srinagar district in view of the call for march by some elements to Hazratbal.
"Curfew has also been imposed in Ganderbal, Budgam, Anantnag town, Awantipora, Kulgam town, Baramulla district excluding Sopore, Shopian town, Kaloosa in Bandipora and parts of Handwara," a police official said.
He said restrictions on assembly of four or more persons in rest of the Valley as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order
Security forces have been deployed in strength in sensitive and vulnerable areas to maintain law and order.
Schools, colleges, business establishments, petrol pumps banks and private offices remain closed while public transport remained off roads. Attendance in government offices was also thin, the official said.
Mobile internet services continued to remain snapped in the entire Valley where the outgoing facility on prepaid connections is barred.
Authorities had lifted curfew from all districts on July 26 except the sensitive South Kashmir belt.
However, it was re-imposed the next day after separatists called for protest march to Kulgam district town against Wani's killing.
Wani represented a new generation of fighters in a region where alienation runs deep even though attacks have fallen dramatically since the revolt broke out in 1989.
His killing has triggered the Valley's worst outbreak of violence in six years.
At least 46 people were killed and more than 5,000 wounded, including Indian security forces, in the violence. More than 300 people suffered injuries because of pellet guns, including 171 with eye injuries, further fuelling the anger against the forces and the government.
Officials also informed police had recently launched a massive crackdown against "hooligans and miscreants" in Kashmir, arresting nearly 500 youths from across the Valley.