Tourists Keep Date With Valley Despite Attacks
1 June 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The terror attacks on tourists - condemned by all political parties, separatist groups and also some terrorist outfits, who called it a conspiracy- have failed to dampen the spirit of visitors. On Wednesday, 23 tourists from West Bengal were injured when grenades were hurled at two buses. Last week, terrorists had targeted another group from Gujarat. But the fact that militant groups have distanced themselves from the attack seems to have set at rest tourists' fears. 'There hasn't been much effect on the tourist inflow,' said Farooq Ahmed Shah, state tourism director. Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baigh, who also holds the tourism portfolio, met representatives from the tourism industry and asked them to face the situation with determination. He said he hoped the attacks wouldn't deter tourist inflow, and asked police to investigate the cases thoroughly. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, he said, had spoken to his counterparts from other states. Along the banks of the Dal, a large number of tourists are strolling. Some are taking shikara rides. That Wednesday's blasts took place only a few hundred metres away hasn't deterred them. 'We are here since Sunday. This is an unforgettable trip,' says 27-year-old Suresh Parmar of Mumbai. Parmar and his friends were coming back from Gulmarg when they heard about the blasts. 'But there's nothing to fear,' he said. 'We're going to stay for another four days. We plan to make a trip to Pahalgam tomorrow.' Along the Boulevard Road, tourists walk about without any tension. 'Violence is not particular to Kashmir now,' says Akhilesh Kumar of Anand, Gujarat, who is in the valley with his wife and seven-year-old daughter. 'We are here and we will leave only after visiting all the tourist spots of the valley.' Travel agents, tour operators, traders - all are happy that the attacks haven't scared away the tourists. 'There are no cancellations,' says Nilesh Kritekar of Raja & Rani Travels. The Mumbai-based travel agency had brought the most number of tourists to the valley; this year, it has tied up with Go Air and is running two exclusive tourist flights from Mumbai every week. 'Our flight brought 120 tourists today from Mumbai. All the people who had booked for today have arrived here,' said Kritekar. With the militant groups condemning the blasts, people now suspect a conspiracy by some vested interests. 'We are unable to understand who are behind these blasts?' says Azeem Tuman, president of the Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association. 'They want to ruin Kashmir's economy.'