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Kashmir becomes a favourite again this New Year’s Eve

"It is just like the old times in Gulmarg. I cannot fully express my joy when I see the numbers of tourists here today," said Abdul Gaffar, a pony owner here.

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Kashmir. Pixabay
  • This new year starts with a bang for Tourism industry in Kashmir as it experiences the sudden boom of the tourists.
  • Hoteliers and Resort owners are especially overjoyed with the prospect of increased Tourism.
  • Increased tourism is also indicating an increase in Kashmir’s economy.

New Year couldn’t be likely to begin on a better note for the tourist industry of Kashmir. This world-famous ski resort was completely sold out on Saturday as scores of tourists from far and near thronged the place to start celebrations on New Year’s Eve on Sunday.

“It is a great omen for the tourist industry of the state. Gulmarg is completely sold out as hundreds of tourists have arrived here to welcome 2018.

“All hotels and tourist huts are occupied as more arrivals are expected tomorrow as well. “We have domestic tourists as well as foreigners from Thailand, Malaysia and some other countries.

“Not only Gulmarg, all high-end hotels and those in the middle class range are completely booked in Srinagar city. Pahalgam tourist resort also has appreciable presence of tourists these days,” state Director, Tourism, Mehmood Shah told IANS.

He said that aggressive and realistic tourist wooing campaigns through social media by the Tourist Department and other stakeholders have started paying dividends now.

“What is encouraging is that domestic tourists from south India are now looking at Kashmir as a holiday and honeymoon destination. Hopefully, we will be having a wonderful tourist season this winter and during the coming spring and summer months,” Shah said.

2017 had not begun on a good note for the local tourist industry. Lesser number of tourists came to Kashmir during this year, but the sudden boom noticed around the New Year’s Eve, signifies that 2018 will be a welcome year.

 Kashmir tourism is seeing a boom after a year of stagnancy. Wikimedia
Kashmir tourism is seeing a boom after a year of stagnancy. Wikimedia

“We had very little occupancy during peak tourist periods in 2017, but given the number of tourist arrivals towards the year end, we are hopeful of a great season ahead”, said Altaf Ahmad, manager of Hilltop Hotel here.

Managers at the highend Khybir Resort also expressed satisfaction at the tourist arrivals around the year end.

Even when the temperature outside is around minus six degrees Celsius, Gulmarg is abuzz with life.

The increased tourism is a matter of joy for the Kashmir's economy. Wikimedia Commons
The increased tourism is a matter of joy for the Kashmir’s economy. Wikimedia Commons

Taxi operators, ponywallahs and others directly or indirectly associated with the tourist industry in Gulmarg hope the tempo sustains and 2018 proves to be a blessing for the tourist industry.

“It is just like the old times in Gulmarg. I cannot fully express my joy when I see the numbers of tourists here today,” said Abdul Gaffar, a pony owner here.

Hoteliers in Srinagar especially those around the Dal Lake are busy attending to their guests.

“It is great to see guests arrive in such numbers at this time of the year,” said a hotelier in the Boulevard Road area on the banks of the lake. IANS

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Post-Pulwama, Kashmir Helpline Gets Over 500 Calls

About the challenges Ladakh faces after a Pulwama-type attack, he said its economy suffers since it is almost fully dependent on tourism

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Pulwama, JeM, Terror, Kashmir
The Indian Army said that all the top leadership of the JeM outfit have been eliminated by security forces in the Kashmir Valley within 100 hours of the terror attack. Pixabay

With nationalist sentiments on a high after the suicide attack that left 40 CRPF troopers dead, it is the Kashmiris around the country who have felt the heat. Post-February 14 Pulwama attack, a helpline for students from the state in the NCR area received over 500 calls — more than 25 calls a day.

Vidushi Kapoor, Jammu and Kashmir’s Liaison Officer in-charge of Delhi-NCR area, told IANS that although no major incident was reported, she received around 500-600 calls, especially from Dehradun, from Kashmiri students saying that they are “feeling insecure”.

“Police and college authorities were very helpful. Full security and support was provided to the students at all times,” she said. However, the charged-up environment and reports from other areas has prompted many Kashmiri students to return home, she added.

“The environment has cooled down now, but two weeks were quite upsetting… the students were really scared.”

Kapoor is one of the seven Liaison Officers appointed around the country by the state government in November 2018 for support of students from the state. After the attack, their contacts were published in newspapers and social media to enable students to contact them.

More worryingly, the situation also shows that the rift between the state’s three major regions – Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh – extends to influence the perception of their people around India.Kapoor noted that the helpline had not got a single call from any students from the Jammu region.

Meanwhile, it is those from the Kashmir Valley who are squeezed between the terror outfits and the security forces.

Noting how all this takes a mental toll on its residents, Mehr (name changed), a 21-year-old living in the Kashmir Valley, said: “We are in repressive conditions. Being surrounded by security men is normal for us…livelihood, schools being suspended is normal.”

About the Pulwama attack, she said: “Violence wouldn’t solve the issue. The attack was not a good thing” but noted that people joined militancy because of “excesses”.

Taniya Tikoo, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Delhi, said it is best for both India and Pakistan if Kashmiris are allowed to have a dialogue among themselves. “It will be a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.

IOC, olympic, tokyo games, india, pakistan
FILE – Indian paramilitary soldiers stand by the wreckage of a bus after an explosion in Pampore, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

People from Jammu region have a different take.

Citing the recent grenade attack in Jammu bus stand, Delhi University student Saloni, who hails from Kathua, said, “A lot of violence has shifted to Jammu (region).”

She demanded greater linkage between the state and India. “India has been investing so much… we should be integrated with the rest of the country and Articles 370, 35A (of the Constitution) should be scrapped – they have done no good so far.”

Hitu, another girl from Jammu region studying in Delhi, however, said whenever any violence takes place in Kashmir, it affects everyone including “our schools, banks, highways also close”.

She also said that people from Jammu and Ladakh region “have a general feeling of being ignored by the leaders”.

Jigmat Paljor, President of the Ladakh Student Welfare Society in Delhi, is in agreement with his Jammu counterparts – but to a point.

Paljor told IANS how his people feel alienated because with all focus on Kashmir, issues of Ladakh, which is the state’s biggest region but sparsely populated, get overlooked.

Also Read- Women of Pakistan Protest Against Workplace Harassment, Child Marriage

About the challenges Ladakh faces after a Pulwama-type attack, he said its economy suffers since it is almost fully dependent on tourism.

“And since Ladakh has a border with both Pakistan and China, there is always fear of tensions escalating….”

While Paljor maintains Kashmir is an integral part of the country, he wants Articles 370 and 35A to stay as his region “is very fragile and susceptible in terms of economy, culture, language, environment, from outside influence”. (IANS)