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
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.
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.
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.
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.