Terrorism waning, tourists reclaim Kashmir

The crown of India, it seems, is finally returning to peace. Even though insurgency in the valley continues, ebbing terrorist activities are now prompting domestic and foreign tourists to plan their long awaited visits to the land of virgin splendor and beauty.

While the news of tourists flocking to Kashmir – ‘the Paradise on Earth’ calls for a momentous celebration, the callous tourism industry in other hill states like Himachal and Uttarakhand is almost certainly at loss.

Kashmir Lake
Lake in Kashmir Valley

It was last during 1988, when around 7 lakh tourists visited this paradise on Earth. Over the next two decades, the land drifted into a frenzy of war, insurgency, and conflict. The valley reverberated with bewailing gun shots, consuming lives within a barricaded world, where outsiders wouldn’t dare to risk their lives.

Now, after almost 14 years, children in the valley are growing up without hearing to the sounds of bullets and rocket launchers.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too has shown satisfaction over the work of police and the security forces in the valley. And, besides intensified patrolling along the borders, which has slowed down infiltration, other indicative reasons include overhaul of terrorist infrastructure in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan along with the reduced local support. These collective reasons attribute to why Kashmir is finally seeing the light of a peaceful day.

Once again, after over 20 years, history is repeating itself. There has been tremendous influx of tourist flocking the beautiful valleys and mountains of Kashmir. According to statistics, the rebound figures stood at 5 lakh tourists in 2011, preceded by an estimated 9 lakh till September this year.

The number of foreign tourists still remained low, around 22,000. This was attributed to the strict laws enforced by foreign governments in advancing visas keeping the safety of its citizens in mind.

But, Indian tourists cheered the year when they could finally take a peaceful shikara ride across the Dal Lake or venture to stride out in the deep dense forests of pine and deodar. And, while a handful of tourists would risk crossing over the Jawahar Tunnel, or even visit the Wuller Lake, now the number is gradually rising.

The hospitality industry is making even bigger claims. According to many reports, waning terrorism in Kashmir has adversely affected tourism in other states. Many places in Himachal Pradesh like Shimla, Dharamshala, and Manali witnessed a decline in summer tourists, who instead preferred to visit Kashmir.

With the advent of winters, now everyone is looking to celebrate a white Christmas and New Year amidst snowy mountains of Kashmir. Hoteliers in parts of Himachal, Uttarakhand, and other states are already complaining about vacant rooms and lesser advance bookings for the coming season. Kashmir definitely evinces a more promising snowy New Year than any other destination in India.

The endless disappointment, which tourists have received over the past few years from the absence of snowfall at Shimla, and other nearby places during December, is once calling people to Kashmir.

Pre-bookings at all five-star hotels have already begun, and so have bookings for boathouses that line the Dal Lake. The wheels of time are at last turning in favor of Kashmir and the economy is once again flourishing toward the path of growth.

Bollywood, which in the past never failed to frame the majestic valleys in the movies throughout the 80s and early 90s too had to recede its steps back during late 90. And now, Bollywood is again set for a new beginning, with more and more movies being structured in the backdrop of the metamorphosing land of Kashmir.

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