South india Comes to res­Cue oF tourist-starVed Kash­mir

In the last week of Septem­ber, some groups of tourists from Tamil Nadu vis­ited Kash­mir. Tour op­er­a­tors from Tamil Nadu have promised more visi­tors.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

The Jammu and Kash­mir gov­ern­ment and pri­vate tour op­er­a­tors in that state are try­ing to woo tourists from the south­ern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Ker­ala to visit the val­ley, which is bat­tling a dry tourist sea­son.

With the au­tumn sea­son set to be as dull as the months pre­ced­ing it, Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh, who vis­ited Sri­na­gar, him­self asked all coun­try­men to visit Kash­mir and en­joy the hospi­tal­ity of its peo­ple.

The J& K Tourism De­part­ment is con­cen­trat­ing on South India as many tourists from the South have thronged Kash­mir and even pri­vate op­er­a­tors feel the the south­ern states can make up for the drop in tourist foot­fall. De­spite Kash­mir see­ing a dip in tourism, many tourists from the south­ern states have vis­ited Kash­mir. “They have not been im­pacted by the nega­tive me­dia pub­lic­ity and are ready to en­joy Kash­mir’s beauty and hos- pital­ity. We are ex­pect­ing more of them in the cur­rent au­tumn sea­son,” said an of­fice bearer of Kash­mir tour and travel trade body.

In the last week of Septem­ber, some groups of tourists from Tamil Nadu vis­ited Kash­mir and the tour op­er­a­tors from Tamil Nadu have promised more visi­tors. “We had re­cently a tourist group of 32 peo­ple from Tamil Nadu and they stayed in our ho­tel. They were thrilled by the beauty of the val­ley and the hospi­tal­ity of Kash­miris,” said one hote­lier from Sri­na­gar who hosted them for four days.

The direc­tor of Tourism, Kash­mir, Mehmood Ah­mad Shah, told this re­porter that South India could be the ideal tourist-provider to Kash­mir. U. Goku­lakr­ish­nan, pro­pri­etor of Gokul Tours and Trav­els in Tamil Nadu, was re­cently in Kash­mir with his group of tourists. He told the me­dia that he will be happy to bring more groups.

Mean­while, film groups from Bol­ly­wood and the South are show­ing renewed in­ter­ests in Kash­mir and some of them were re­cently shoot­ing their films here, send­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage out­side that things were nor­mal in Kash­mir. The South In­dian film in­dus­try has also started shoot­ing in Kash­mir and cur­rently Sheela Shetty has been shoot­ing the film Hy­per here and the en­tire crew is thrilled to be here. Re­cently, an ad­ver­tise­ment cam­paign by a prom­i­nent brand also shot their film in Sri­na­gar.

Chief Min­is­ter Me­hbooba Mufti, who also holds the tourism port­fo­lio, re­cently in­au­gu­rated a short film re- leased by the state Tourism De­part­ment, show­cas­ing the warmth and hospi­tal­ity of Kash­miri peo­ple. This pro­mo­tional film has been a huge hit on the so­cial net­work­ing web­sites and has renewed hopes among the lo­cal peo­ple con­nected with tourism that tourists will come back to Kash­mir.

There are 750 reg­is­tered tour and travel agen­cies in Jammu and Ka­tra. In Kash­mir there are around 550 agen­cies. In both re­gions, they have not been able to gen­er­ate any tourism this year so far. With braid-cut­ting in­ci­dents com­ing to light in Kash­mir, the ad­min­is­tra­tion here has cau­tioned the peo­ple not to take the law in their own hands and re­strain them­selves from in­dulging in vig­i­lan­tism. The po­lice has also asked the me­dia to ex­er­cise cau­tion as any pro­vok­ing re­port­ing may lead to mob vig­i­lan­tism.

DIG, Cen­tral Kash­mir, Ghu­lam Has­san Bhat, told this re­porter that so far, all the al­leged braid chop­pers handed over to the po­lice by peo­ple were found to be in­no­cent.

Po­lice’s ap­peal came af­ter 70-year-old Ab­dul Salam Wani was se­ri­ously in­jured at Dan­ter vil­lage of Anant­nag. He was thrashed by the vil­lagers with a brick. He suc­cumbed to head in­juries in the hos­pi­tal on Fri­day. While J&K Po­lice is com­ing un­der in­tense pres­sure from the op­po­si­tion par­ties and even from the rul­ing PDP for not be­ing able to ar­rest the braid chop­pers, the po­lice main­tains that they can­not solve any case un­less the vic­tims and the wit­nesses come for­ward to give their state­ments.

At Ish­ber Nishat, on the out­skirts of Sri­na­gar, two young per­sons from Sri­na­gar were thrashed by the vil­lagers who said that they were the al­leged braid chop­pers. “We found them to be in­no­cent. They are bat­tling for their lives in the hos­pi­tal as they were beaten up by a fren­zied mob,” a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer from Nishat told this re­porter.

There have been dozens of cases in the past few days when mobs thrashed peo­ple across Kash­mir, ac­cus­ing them to be braid chop­pers. The po­lice has re­ceived com­plaints of about 60 cases of al­leged braid chop­ping. In many cases, street Romeos were also thrashed and in other cases some of the thieves, in­clud­ing one car lifter, were beaten up. These in­ci­dents have in­stilled fear among the peo­ple and there is chaos in Sri­na­gar and on its out­skirts. In many vil­lages peo­ple have started do­ing night vig­ils to guard them­selves from the braid chop­ping.

The po­lice re­cently an­nounced a prize money of Rs 6 lakh for the per­son who pro­vides any in­for­ma­tion about the cul­prits, but there hasn’t been any progress on this so far. IGP Kash­mir Range, Muneer Ah­mad Khan, told the me­dia that there is no co­op­er­a­tion from the public or from the vic­tims or their fam­i­lies on this mat­ter. He said that peo­ple are not com­ing for­ward even to file any com­plaints against this growing crime. Ask­ing the peo­ple to co­op­er­ate and ex­er­cise calm, he said that peo­ple should not take the law in their own hands as that will re­sult in chaos and tragedies.

There has been a shut­down in Anant­nag as the traders al­leged that the po­lice and the se­cu­rity forces went on a ram­page and dam­aged their shops and busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments fol­low­ing an anti-po­lice protest in the town against the growing in­ci­dents of braid chop­ping. DIG, Cen­tral Kash­mir, Ghu­lam Has­san Bhat told the me­dia that they have formed a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team headed by a lady in­spec­tor to probe the in­ci­dents of al­leged braid chop­ping. Mean­while, girl students of Women’s Col­lege in Sri­na­gar on Sat­ur­day held protests against the gov­ern­ment for not be­ing able to stop the growing braid chop­ping in­ci­dents.

PHOTO: AB­HISHEK SHUKLA

Women get mehndi pat­terns done on their hands in New Delhi on Sat­ur­day, ahead of Karva Chauth on Sun­day.

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