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A home away from home; Kashmiri Pandits and the question of Homeland

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By Ishan Kukreti

In the game of Indian politics, the issue of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) is like a football being kicked around. BJP bet its money on the Pandits to win elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The call for ‘Homeland’ is raised every now and then to induce a pan national sympathy wave in the country. Those who have ‘migrated’ live a life filled with bitter-sweet memories, cradling a faint hope of someday walking the streets again that they used to roam as kids.

 

The curtain rises

Kashmir, a region that had so boldly refused Jinnah and his two nation theory, had a school of Islam, Sufism, followed by the radicalization of both Hindus and Muslims post USSR break up. However, the real reason, which turned Kashmir into a field of open graves, remains buried in that time and place.

The events that followed the elections of 1987 and the entry of Pakistani and Afghan militants into the scene in its aftermath are not new stories to tell. It all ended with the exodus of a community from their land, their home.

‘The Kashmiri Pandit had to leave when his neighbor told him that he could not protect him anymore.’ Rahul Jalali, a journalist and a KP himself told NewsGram. Rahul was reporting Kashmir in ’91 but had to escape after an attempt on his life. Two years later his house was bombed. Nothing remains of his childhood there, all the memories are just in his head and they only get as tangible as dreams.

Many who left, like him managed to survive by the skin of their teeth. Many, like Lassa Kaul, the director of Doordarshan in Srinagar, were not so lucky.

 

A bag full of stones

Meanwhile the game continues. The talks of creating ‘composite townships’ have been shot down by CM Mufti on the grounds of diversity. Separatist leader Yasin Malik has appealed to KPs to come back. In the match between Rajnath Singh, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Yasin Malik and the like, the Kashmiri Pandit is standing on the sideline, burdened with promises.

‘ Our houses were taken. There were brokers who sold them at nominal rates. Why didn’t Yasin Malik tell them then to not sell our houses, tell them that we have to come back? Can they give me my home back? Can I go back and say that this is my land, please give it back to me? I think that is not possible.’ a highly agitated Bihari Kak, once the owner of famous Kak Opticals in Srinagar said over the phone.

He says he wants to go back to his motherland. But even if he is given his land back, he can’t just go there and live. Employment opportunity and a means to earn a living are things conspicuous by their absence in Kashmir and Kak Opticals do not exist anymore.

 

A fire and some lost bangles

Moreover, fear of a resurgence of militancy can’t be denied. Having lived in terror, those who have somehow managed to start a new life in other places don’t want their children to live the same way.

‘ There is no fear. But at the same time there is a doubt, what if it happens again? You see the stone pelting is happening again. That’s how it was then, throw a stone and kill them. If there was a match, somebody was killed. Match lost, kill them, match won, kill them. That was the attitude. We dont want our children to live in this kind of atmosphere.’ Kak’s loss is overwhelming. The day their house was burnt, his 11 year old daughter cried the whole night for the bangles she had lost in the fire.

 

So, where do we go from here?

‘The only way to solve the issue of Kashmiri Pandits is a reconciliation along the lines of South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Without taking into account the basic human relations, no amount of governmental, political or any other kind of resolution can solve this problem.’ says Rahul Jalali.

A purge of all the negative emotions from the people is required to mend the damage. Till the time aggressor and the aggrieved don’t agree mutually to put this behind them and move on, not much can be achieved on the rehabilitation and ‘Homeland’ front.

 

Postscript

Rahul recounts an incident on a Jammu matador bus that gives the ground reality in the state.

‘ A Kashmiri Muslim family and Pandit were sitting together on the seat behind me. Given the size of these mini buses I could overhear them talking. And what they were talking about wasn’t the things said on Prime Time. They were recounting tales of personal loss. The Pandit had to leave his house and stay in camps and the Muslim had lost his father to the bullets of security forces. The two communities divided in history had found reconciliation in a little bus of Jammu.’

The story of Kashmir is one where people on both sides have lost and are no better than the other, one is destroyed by leaving Kashmir and the other by staying.

 

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Dynamics of Tourism Growth in India

Ensuring that the tourism infrastructure supply chain is seamless will require not just creating a consistent and informative process

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Tourism, Growth, India
Fundamentally, for the robust long-term growth of the tourism sector, India must ensure that it is offering an eco-system that is attractive and consistent. Pixabay

The dynamics of industrial growth in India, for all ancillary industries, makes for fascinating reading and analysis. India has embarked on a renewed push towards making the country an attractive tourist destination through a variety of measures such as the “Incredible India 2.0” campaign. Both local and international destinations have wooed domestic Indian tourists. Regardless of whether one considers inbound or outbound tourism, the tourism supply chain provides exciting opportunities for investors and provides pointers towards much-needed infrastructure developments.

At a fundamental level, as India looks to develop further this component of the economy derived from tourism, it is vital to focus on the convergence of marketing & branding (read availability of information regarding possible tourist destinations), accessibility and local infrastructure such as hotels, eateries, transportation and medical facilities. Fundamentally, for the robust long-term growth of the tourism sector, India must ensure that it is offering an eco-system that is attractive and consistent.

Ensuring that the tourism infrastructure supply chain is seamless will require not just creating a consistent and informative process that generates tourist interest, but also a back-to-front infrastructure linkage that delivers the experience. For instance, a trip to the Taj Mahal via the Delhi Airport and the expressway linking Delhi to Agra is vital to ensuring that the branding and marketing of a tourist destination deliver value.

A closer look at the example stated above throws light upon the importance of the airline connectivity, highway and airport infrastructure involved. Additionally, the availability of the local hospitality industry that caters to the spectrum of incoming tourists at the tourist destination is vital. One missing piece in the link renders all other assets relatively incapable of realising full value. On the contrary, a seamless infrastructure linkage system ensures that the various components in the supply chain can operate close to full potential to generate value.

Tourism, Growth, India
At a fundamental level, as India looks to develop further this component of the economy derived from tourism, it is vital to focus on the convergence of marketing & branding (read availability of information regarding possible tourist destinations). Pixabay

For example, exceptional air connectivity to a tourist destination and the availability of hotel infrastructure that caters to a broad spectrum of tourists is rendered relatively ineffective in generating significant tourist traffic without the last-mile road connectivity required between the airport and the final tourist destination. It is vital to underscore that the focus isn’t only on the international tourist, but on both foreign and domestic tourists.

Essentially, as the interlinkages mentioned above will improve, so will the volume of tourist traffic. The capacity for both the government and investors to further develop the cornerstone of the tourism infrastructure linkage stated above has significant multiplier effects for investment opportunities in linked sectors. The luggage industry is a classic example of a sector that will provide investment avenues as the Indian tourism industry develops further. Additionally, not only will the ancillary industries such as luggage grow, but they will also grow in terms of segmentation. With gradually rising incomes, opportunities will be created not just by aggregate market size growth but by tapping into segments such as higher-end luggage demand.

The key takeaway is that as basic tourism infrastructure will grow, linked industries such as luggage, banking and foreign exchange service providers will flourish. Opportunities through market disruptions must be viewed by investors as an avenue to get into growth segments that benefit from tourism growth in India. The opportunity to acquire a foreign exchange business from a larger business group or to get a foothold within the luggage industry must be viewed as an opportunity to tap into the tourism potential.

Indian tourism opportunities must be viewed through a wider lens of tourism that not only caters to traditional hospitality but also builds on the niche opportunities available. Medical tourism is an area that has seen significant growth in the past years and with the infrastructure ecosystem providing support will grow further.

Also Read- Vietnam and Australia to Start Collaborating on Science Initiatives

However, segments such as the meetings (both national and international), incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) and wedding destination need more significant focus in India. Infrastructure creation that will allow India to gain a foothold in the MICE tourism space gradually is vital. Not only will there be direct earnings, but existing hospitality assets will be able to ramp up their returns on the back of adequate MICE infrastructure.

The tourism industry going further offers significant opportunities to India to generate jobs, more GDP and investment opportunities. Further building on the available opportunities through a well-planned and holistic approach is urgently required. (IANS)