From Ceasefire Violations to Tourist Destination in Kashmir

“The guns have gone silent on the borders of Kashmir for over a year after the agreement of ceasefire was signed between India and Pakistan. The people living on the Line of Control are finally living a life in Peace. And now the government along with the locals is also promoting these bordering areas as the new tourist destinations.”

The bordering areas in North Kashmir have been thrown open for the public. Areas like Keran, Gurez, Tangdhar, Machil and Bangus are the new tourist destinations which have been added to the list by the tourism department.

With breathtaking views of Hills and water tributaries, these places are being promoted as the adventure tourism destinations.

”We have been witnessing to a lot of gunfire and shelling in this area. We used to have ceasefire violations every day and shelling on our homes. But with the ceasefire we are finally living a normal life. We are extremely happy after the ceasefire between the two countries. It has come as a blessing for us. We are finally breathing normally. We used to live in bunkers earlier and we are hoping that we don’t see those days again. We don’t have money to invest in making hotels. That’s why we have made homestays. This will give us employment and we will be able to generate income. The view that you get in Keran, I challenge you if you can find this view anywhere in the world.

The Indian army has played a major role in opening these areas for the Public. The whole security setup in these areas is under the Indian army and they are not only protecting these areas but also promoting them as tourist destinations. The locals of the area say that without the Indian army, it would not be possible to welcome tourists in these areas.

”We are thankful to the Indian army. We get a lot of support from the army, and they are with us 24/7. Tourism is also coming to this place because of the Indian army. It’s a beautiful place and we are making our homes into home stays. It’s completely peaceful here after the ceasefire and we hope people from across the country will visit us. ” Raja Suhail Khan, Nambardar.

The Tourist department of Jammu and Kashmir government recently added 75 new tourist destinations to their list. 38 destinations are in the Kashmir region while 37 are in Jammu. The government has drawn plans for these areas to build infrastructure keeping in view the ecosystem of these places. They are also providing opportunities for the locals of these areas to generate employment and economy.

”The main thrust is to promote rural tourism and in rural tourism also we have identified offbeat destinations 75 in total, out of which 38 from Kashmir and 37 from Jammu. The focus is to highlight these destinations. Border areas like Gurez, Keran Machil and Tangdhar. These are the areas falling under the scheme, the plans have been drawn and we are in consultation with district administration and India army to promote these areas for adventure tourism.

There is also an effort for the locals to have opportunities in the tourism sector. They can have homestays, become guides and introduce adventure sports. This will improve the economy and showcase these areas as good tourism spots. However, these are eco sensitive areas and we can’t have huge concrete structures in these areas. We are focusing on tents and home stays which will open opportunities for the locals in these areas. They can offer a homely experience to the tourists. For youth, tented accommodation can prove a game changer for them. ” G N Itoo, Director Tourism.

As Kashmir witnessed record breaking tourist arrivals in the last 4 months, all major tourist destinations in Kashmir Valley like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonamarg are fully booked for the next two months. Government says with the promotion of these sites, it will help cater the huge influx of tourists coming to the Kashmir Valley.

Courtesy: Idrees Lone

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