Shunning dogmatism, separatists are now championing the cause of tourism in Kashmir thanks to the moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has embarked on a new journey to promote tourism and boost foreign arrivals in Kashmir.
Mirwaiz on Monday met a Japanese delegation and discussed travel advisories with them. He called for more foreign tourist arrivals apart from discussing the current political situation in the valley.
“Kashmiris are courteous and peace loving people for which they are known around the world. We want that visitors from across the globe including Japan should come to Kashmir and enjoy its natural beauty.
However, the visitors should also talk about the worsening situation and dominant political sentiment of the people, in their respective countries”, Mirwaiz told the delegation.
The J&K government was quick to welcome it but with riders. “Please tell them don’t create disturbance. All they have to do is not resort to hartal, strike or dharna. Don’t resort to militant activity and people will automatically lift the travel advisories”, Nawang Rigzin Jora, J&K tourism minister, told DNA.
Tourism players went gaga over separatists’ gesture to promote tourism saying it would auger well for the sector.
“There are people in different countries who are enthusiastic to come to Kashmir but these travel advisories are acting as hurdles. Plus we want that government should also withdraw disturbed areas act and other laws so that a positive message goes across which will help in boosting the arrivals,” GM Dag, chairman of the J&K Tourism Alliance, told DNA.
Mirwaiz’s gesture has come at a time when tourism is witnessing a major boom in Kashmir. More than five lakh tourists have visited Kashmir so far. This year Kashmir is likely to host two million tourists, seven lakh more than last year’s 1.3 million. This excludes the 6.34 lakh Amarnath pilgrims that visited the holy cave shrine last year.
Jammu and Ladakh regions too reaped the benefits of peace with one crore pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and 1.79 lakh visiting Ladakh in 2011.