Satya Pal Malik, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), has directed the withdrawal of an advisory, issued two months ago, that asked tourists and pilgrims to leave the state. Tourists can now visit the Valley from 10 October. This is welcome. The state has been under a complete lockdown since 5 August, when the Centre revoked its special status under Article 370 to integrate it wholly with India, and decided to split it into two Union territories. Fearing a backlash from Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups and their proxies, Indian authorities had snapped off mobile and internet services in the state. Local political leaders and other individuals of influence were also placed under house arrest.

Such harsh tactics were justified as preventive measures to maintain peace and order in the state. Re-opening the gates for visitors should spell some relief for local tourism, which supports many livelihoods and was hit hard by the advisory. For large numbers to visit J&K, however, the state needs to regain its earlier semblance of normalcy. For this, other clamps need to be eased as well, especially on communication. Net access is considered vital to modern existence across the world, and a prolonged suspension amounts to an information blackout that could be seen as a violation of civil liberties.

The return of tourists will ease tensions, hopefully. The government’s move to let political workers meet their leaders under detention is also a good sign. It’s time now to release political prisoners and let judicial as well as democratic processes play out in the state.

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