Srinagar, Jan 19: Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh district has emerged as a favourite destination for foreign tourists as nearly 50,000 people from abroad visited the land of high passes last year, tourism officials said Saturday.
The overall tourist arrivals in 2018 in the district, located at an altitude of 3,524 metres (11,562 ft), also crossed three lakh mark for the first time, setting a new record, the officials said.
“A total of 3,27,366 tourists, including 49,477 foreigners, visited Leh in 2018, marking an increase of over 50,000 compared to the previous year,” a senior official of the state Tourism Department told PTI.
He said the tourist arrivals in the district first touched the six-figure mark in 2011 when 1,79,491 tourists, including 36,662 foreigners, visited the district.
The feat was achieved a year after sudden floods in August – considered as the peak tourist season – caused by a cloudburst heavily damaged the town.
In 2014, the record number of 59,305 western backpackers flocked the area along with over 1.21 lakh domestic tourists.
The number of tourist arrivals, however, dropped to 1.46 lakh in 2015 but picked up again next year, crossing 2.33 lakh, including 37,497 foreigners, the official said, adding the figures reached 2,77,255 in 2017, including 46,593 foreigners in 2017.
Ladakh, also known as the cold desert, usually remains cut off from rest of the country owing to heavy snowfall which blocks 434-km Srinagar-Leh and 490-km Manali-Leh highways for months together owing to heavy snowfall along the high passes.
Last year, the Centre had approved the construction of the 14.2-km long tunnel project, Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila Pass tunnel at an estimated cost of Rs 6,089 crore, to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil, and Leh which, when completed, will further give a boost to the tourism sector in the region.
“The tourist arrivals by road remain restricted between April and October, as a result of which other months of the year record a very low turnout,” the official said.
Last year, he said that 5,665 tourists arrived in January followed by 1,136 in February, 1,298 in March and 11,277 in April when the road connectivity to the region was restored.
As many as 44,583 tourists visited Leh in May followed by 77,041 in June, 70,139 in July, 53,621 in August, 38,049 in September, 20,784 in October, 2,416 in November and 1,357 in December, the official said.
The highest number of 13,033 foreign tourists visited Leh in August followed by 12,226 in July, 7,355 in September and 6,209 in June, the official said adding only 421 foreigners visited the region in January, 476 in February, 523 in March, 2,678 in April, 2,785 in May, 3,223 in October, 286 in November and 262 in December.
“Leh district possesses immense tourism potential and the Governor’s administration is keen to upgrade its tourism-related infrastructure to attract increased tourist footfall to the region,” Chief Secretary B V R Subramanyam, who visited Leh on Friday and held a series of meetings, said.
Expressing happiness over the increasing trend of tourist inflow to Leh, the chief secretary stressed on Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, to work out a master plan for guiding tourism sector towards inclusive and sustainable development of the district.
Mirwaiz condemns assault on Kashmiris, terms it ‘unfortunate’
Srinagar, Feb 16: Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Saturday strongly denounced the attack on Kashmiris in several parts of India.
In a statement issued, Mirwaiz said it is incumbent upon those ruling in these Indian states and the Governor in Jammu to control these elements and ensure the safety of Kashmiris wherever they are being attacked and harassed and their properties vandalized and burnt down.
“Kashmiris are thrashed, intimidated and properties of hundreds of Kashmiri students, laborers, businessmen are vandalized in various Indian states,” he said.
Mirwaiz said that fanatic elements have got a great excuse and are let loose, having a field day in executing their communal agenda by targeting Kashmiris.
Mirwaiz said reports of violence against Kashmiris simply studying or doing their work outside is very distressing. He said people of Kashmir are known for their all-out help and support to outsiders who visit us as tourists or Yatris whenever in need. But it is extremely unfortunate that they are being targeted and assaulted and the majority is silent over it.
Mirwaiz said it is also sad that members of civil society activists or even leadership of Jammu are not speaking out against the assault on Kashmiri’s there and playing its role in stopping it.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat spokesman strongly condemned the CASO in Pulwama, Kulgam and Tral areas of south Kashmir wherein dozens of youth after being harassed are detained while inmates kept out of their homes for hours together, household goods and vehicles vandalized stating that lacs of forces deployed across Kashmir have been enjoying complete impunity resulting in the immense problems being inflicting on the innocent Kashmiris.
The spokesman also condemned the arrest of senior Hurriyat leader Mukhtar Waza who has been lodged in police station Sherbagh, Islamabad.
Bar condemns assault on Kashmiris
Srinagar, Feb 16: J&K High Court Bar Association Srinagar (JKHBA) strongly condemned the harassing, beating, abusing and intimidating of Kashmiri Muslims in different parts of country.
Calling for an end to these atrocities, Bar has appealed the International Community including United Nations, Amnesty International, Asia Watch and other human rights organizations of the world as also members of Indian Civil Society to come to the rescue of the people of Kashmir and save them from the brutalities being inflicted on them by the ruthless communal and fanatic forces of Jammu and other places of India.
In an Executive Committee meeting held here today it was stated that Kashmiri Muslims living in Jammu and the Muslims of Jammu are so frightened that they stayed back in their homes on Friday and did not offer Friday prayers to avoid being targeted.
“At several places, the Govt. owned residential quarters in which Kashmiri Govt. employees are putting up were stoned by these hoodlums belonging to RSS and other Hindu fanatic groups and the police did not stop them from doing so and watched the same as silent spectators, which is highly deplorable,” they said.
Bar further said that in Bihar, Dehradun, Chandigarh, Aligarh and other parts of India, Kashmiri students have been beaten to pulp and asked to leave those places forthwith, which is barbaric and shameful.
The Bar members took out a procession from District Court Complex, Moominabad Batamaloo, Srinagar, in which hundreds of lawyers participated and while raising slogans against all the communal and fanatic forces, asked he authorities to give protection to Kashmiri Muslims, who are presently in Jammu or in any other part of India and ensure their safety and security at all costs, as otherwise, if the harassing, abusing beating and teasing of Kashmiri and Jammu Muslims is not stopped forthwith, it will have serious repercussions.
In order to show solidarity with their Kashmiri brethren, the Bar Association also decided to support the call given by Kashmir Traders Federation for 17th of February, 2019.
Lethpora attack aftermath: Youth who rescued 21 soldiers in 2014 floods among 8 arrested in Pulwama
Pulwama, Feb 16: A day after the audacious attack on a CRPF convoy, government forces conducted nocturnal raids and arrested over 8 youth.
Reports said that the raids were conducted in different parts of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district including Lelhar, Hatiwara Letapora, Ratnipora and Lelhar.
Police sources said that over 8 youth were arrested. All these people are considered as the militant ‘sympathizers’, said a source.
Interestingly, one of the arrested youth Asif Muzafar Shah of Samboora had played a key role in rescuing a coloumn of armymen in 2014 devastating floods. The services of Shah were hailed by army then when he rescued 21 soldiers during devastating floods.
Sources added that government forces also picked up father-son duo from Hatiwara Letpora village. A top Jaish-e-Muhammad militant Mufti Waqas was killed in a house at Hatiwara last year. The owner of the house and his son were arrested during the nocturnal raid, said locals.
Government Forces have also made arrests from Tral and other areas after the Lethpora attack that claimed the lives of 49 troopers.
A police official feigned ignorance about these arrests.
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