December 2016 News

Fog Of Unrest Lifts, It's Red Carpet For Tourists

7 December 2016
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: With separatist leaders welcoming tourists, Kashmir's tourism sector, marred by five months of protest and long spells of curfew, is breathing afresh. In a statement on Tuesday, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik promised a peaceful Kashmir for tourists. But on social media, many of their supporters turned against them on the issue. 'We welcome everyone intending to visit Kashmir wholeheartedly and warmly. Everyone from the world, including India, is most welcome here. We invite them to enjoy our hospitality and beauty of the paradise on Earth,' said a joint statement of the separatist leaders, who have been issuing weekly protest calendars since July 8, the day Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed. Wide welcome 'It's a major development. People associated with the tourism industry have been desperately waiting for this. It will send an encouraging message across India and abroad that Kashmir is safe for tourists and people are ready to welcome them,' Manzoor Sidiq, president, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, said. However, the war of words over National Conference president Farooq Abdullah's new-found support for the separatists continues. In Srinagar two days ago, Dr. Abdullah said: 'The ongoing five-month struggle is for people's rights. I ask NC workers not to stay away from this movement. We cannot achieve anything unless we all are united. Let them [Hurriyat] move ahead and we are with them.' To this, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: 'I regret that some seasoned politicians change their posture in and out of power. Dr. Abdullah's statement has established his party's role in the turmoil.' Ms. Mufti, in fact, commended the late Sheikh Abdullah for the Instrument of Accession and the 1975 Delhi accord, and justified her decision to align with the BJP. 'Sheikh sahib also took unpopular decisions in 1947 and 1975. A leader is one who goes against the tide as per his farsightedness,' Ms. Mufti said. BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav lambasted Hurriyat leaders and Dr. Abdullah. 'If the Hurriyat is serious about tourism, it should stop issuing protest calendars and end terror. Asking tourists to come is nothing but a drama.' On Dr. Abdullah's remarks, Mr. Madhav said: 'It remains to be seen if it's political expediency or a real change of heart [in favour of separatists].'