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 lockdown since 5 August, when the Centre revoked its special status under Article 370 to integrate it wholly with India. Fearing a backlash from Pakistan-sponsored terror groups and their proxies, Indian authorities had snapped off mobile and internet services in the state. Local political leaders were placed under detention.
Such harsh tactics were justified as preventive measures to maintain peace. Re-opening the gates for visitors should spell relief for local tourism, which supports many livelihoods and was hit hard. But for large numbers to visit J&K, the state needs to regain its earlier semblance of normalcy. For this, other clamps need to be eased as well, especially on online information. That political workers have been allowed to meet their leaders is also a good sign. It’s perhaps time to release political detainees and let the usual democratic and judicial processes take over.