Sonia Gandhi calls for push to peace process in Kashmir

29 March 2008
The Hindu

Chennai: She was dedicating a sprawling tulip garden to the people here during a brief visit. Earlier known as Siraj Bagh, the tulip garden has now been named after the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. The garden is a dream project of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and attracted a large crowd last year. It will be formally thrown open to the public from Sunday. Admiring the tulips, Ms. Gandhi hoped that the new attraction would give a fillip to tourism industry in the valley. The garden is in full bloom with most of the 12 lakh imported tulip bulbs sprouting colourful flowers. The flower beds in three terraces covering 31.8 m. sq.ft. are slated to become the first stop of domestic and international tourists heading for Kashmir in April ahead of the formal beginning of the tourist season. Recalling her family’s association with Kashmir, Ms. Gandhi said: “Kashmir used to be a regular holiday destination for Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.” According to her, “the atmosphere in the Valley is more peaceful than it used to be.” She hoped that the situation would improve and development activity pick up. She was accompanied by Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Water Resource Minister Saifuddin Soz and the former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The Chief Minister said his aim was to elongate the tourist season in Kashmir that normally begins in May. “In March-end and April there used to be no major attraction for the tourists. Now, the tulip garden, which surpasses the famed Mughal Gardens in expanse, will start attracting the tourists much ahead of the normal season,” he said. The garden was conceptualised in 2005. Next year 20 lakh tulips will bloom in the garden.