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