India Explored: How Kashmir Is Shooting Itself In The Foot: Posted By Arunchs



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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 09:55 AM

How Kashmir Is Shooting Itself In The Foot

A year ago in July-08, I was heading to Ladakh to spend two months traveling in the region. Our initial plan was to go through Srinagar and over Zoji la. On the way, we probably would have spent a night or two on the Dal Lake, given a visit to Gulmarg and a few more places. But just before we were about to head that way, unrest broke out on the Amarnath issue.

But so much has been told about the beauty of Kashmir, we were still keen to visit the region. Having come so close, there was no point going back without even seeing Dal Lake. Though we skipped Srinagar and took the Manali route to Ladakh, we intended to return via Srinagar when things would be quieter. At the end of two months when we were ready to return, there was still no sign of peace in Srinagar: people were still fighting for those 40 hectares of land. As a result, houseboats that bring income to the locals would have gone unoccupied. Hotels that give jobs to local would have gone empty. Kashmir had lost a full summer of tourist season.

Kashmir has a winter tourist season too. Gulmarg is a highly favoured destination for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world. Most of the winter was uneventful in 2008, but there were hiccups then too. Violence erupted in Srinagar when a Swiss tourist was seen on the slopes, with some quran inscriptions on his skis.

This summer was much better and peaceful, and Kashmir is said to have received record tourist inflows. The local tourism industry finally had work to do. But last week, violence erupted again and tourist vehicles were stoned at. It subsequently resulted in many bookings being cancelled and tourists calling off their visit.

For neary 2 decades, external forces created havoc in the valley, brining tourism activities to a complete halt. The army has finally gained control over infiltration in the last few years and tourists were slowly trickling in, their numbers growing every year. It is now domestic violence that is hindering tourism. It is probably a small population that is the cause of all the trouble. But Kashmiris must realize that their livelihood relies on maintaining peace in the valley. They must come together against the forces that encourage violence. The valley is so rich and beautiful, they have no need to work on expensive marketing campaigns to bring in visitors. All that they need is to keep the house in order, and people start coming in large numbers. It is time for Kashmiris to work in that direction.

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arunchs arunchs lives in Bangalore(Karnataka) and is interested in travel, photography, reading, movies, music,...

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