Srinagar, May 08: Many aspiring visitors have started cancelling their travel plans to Kashmir in wake of a tourist’s death during a stone pelting incident on Monday.
Several travel agents’ associations of Kashmir Tuesday said the death of the Chennai tourist due to stone pelting in Narbal on Srinagar-Gulmarg road has unnerved potential tourists and resulted in the cancelation of bookings.
“Cancellations have happened (in the wake of the incident), however, we do receive many fresh bookings and enquiries as well,” Ashfaq Siddiq, president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) who spoke on behalf of all travel agents during a presser on Tuesday said.
On Monday, R. Thirumani Selvan, a young male tourist from Chennai who was visiting Kashmir with his father and other tourists, was grievously hurt in a stone pelting incident in Narbal, Budgam.
He was rushed to SK Institute of Medical Sciences here but eventually succumbed to his injuries.
“The killing of the tourist could be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of tourism in Kashmir,” news agency Press Trust of India quoted Ashfaq as having said.
“This is a sad incident which should not have happened. Unfortunately, we feel that it will have an impact on tourist arrivals to Kashmir. I think it will be the final nail in the coffin,” the PTI report quoted him saying.
Condemning the killing, Siddiq, during the presser, said those who committed the crime are not well-wishers of Kashmiris.
“Innocent killing can’t be justified be it a Kashmiri or a non-local. Whosoever has committed the crime is a cold-blooded murderer. We condemn it in every possible manner and as a Kashmiri we shall apologise for it,”
He, however, said that it still needs to be established whether it was an accidental death or a case of stone pelting.
“We haven’t got any factual details about the incident yet. It needs to be seen whether the particular vehicle was at a wrong place at wrong time,” Siddiq said.
He said the continuing uncertainty coupled with civilian killings had deteriorated the situation in Kashmir, thereby leading to business losses.
“We have seen that lot of innocent civilians have been killed as no SOPs are followed by the forces,” president TAAK said.
He smelled it a “conspiracy” by “agencies” to bring down the economy of Kashmir.
“We don’t know who these agencies are behind to create such situation in Kashmir? We believe that there was a certain game plan on Kashmir by agencies especially to affect its economy. Every sector at receiving end and tourism become first causality here,”Siddiq said.
He added that Kashmir irrespective of other conflict zones has been portrayed negatively across the world.
“Kashmir has become a playfield of every party to score brownie points,” he said.
He said that it was high time for India and Pakistan to solve the problem by initiating the tripartite dialogue.
“All these three parties have to come on the negotiation table and do some negotiations. The sentiment of Kashmir is the basic criteria, which needed to be addressed,” he said.
Pulwama fallout: Mine-protected vehicles, 30-seater buses for CRPF
Srinagar, Mar 25: The CRPF will procure a new fleet of mine protected vehicles (MPVs) and small 30-seater buses to ensure safety of its troop convoys in the Kashmir Valley, the chief of the force has said.
The paramilitary has also decided to enhance the number of its bomb detection and disposal squads (BDDS) for its about 65 battalions based in the Kashmir Valley for anti-terror and law and order duties.
These new measures have been chalked out by the force in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama militant attack in which over 40 personnel travelling in a bus, part of a convoy from Jammu to Srinagar, were killed by a suicide bomber as he exploded a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED).
“We are enhancing our counter-IED capabilities in Kashmir. We are procuring and sending more MPVs and are bullet-proofing force buses. As it is difficult to armour large buses, we are looking at procuring small 30-seater buses that can be better armour plated,” CRPF Director General (DG) R R Bhatnagar told PTI.
The force uses MPVs for limited troop movements in the anti-Naxal operations theatre and some of them are being used in Jammu and Kashmir too. About six personnel can travel in these four-wheeled vehicles.
Bhatnagar said small buses can be better fabricated and provided bullet-resistant armour as compared to the standard large buses that seat 54-57 people.
A similar large bus was blown up during the Pulwama attack.
Officials said once a large bus is fabricated with bullet-proof sheets, its engine takes a toll and its speed and endurance is restricted due to the weight of the additional metal used for the armour.
The CRPF chief said it has been decided to provide bomb detection and disposal squads to each battalion of the force deployed in the Kashmir Valley and those units which had them, will see an increase in the number of personnel and equipment to detect and counter explosives and IEDs.
Seats have been increased in the Pune-based IED education school of the force so that more personnel are trained in the trade of detection and disarming such bombs in Kashmir, Bhatnagar said.
The bullet-proof armour to the buses will only save force personnel from firing attacks by militants and will not provide fool-proof protection from explosions like the one that was carried out in Pulwama, a senior officer said.
To counter Pulwama-like attacks, new procedures for convoy movement and protection have been notified, he added.
The new convoy movement procedure involves restricting the movement of civilian vehicles, regularly changing halting points and dynamic movement of convoys to and from the Kashmir Valley, he said.
Facing criticism for allowing large convoys to ply on roads in an operationally sensitive area like Jammu and Kashmir, the home ministry had announced last month that all troops and officers of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) deployed in the Kashmir Valley can now take a commercial flight while going in to join duty or for tour and while proceeding on leave.
The CRPF cavalcade that came under attack on February 14 had seventy-eight vehicles and the ill-fated bus was fifth in line.
‘Pak gives green signal to Sharda Peeth corridor’
Srinagar, Mar 25: After the Kartarpur Corridor – which connects Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal district with Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur District – Pakistan on Monday reportedly gave a green single to open Sharda Temple Corridor for Hindu pilgrims. The ancient shrine is located across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK).
Express Tribune, a leading Pakistani daily quoting its sister organisation Express News reported that “sources in the ministry of foreign affairs said India’s foreign ministry already sent a proposal to open the corridor in this regard.”
The opening of the corridor to historic temple town has been a long-standing demand of Kashmiri Pandits and people who got displaced from the region in 1947.
“Pakistan has decided to open the Sharda temple. I am going to visit the place in a couple of days. I will also send a report in this regard to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Work on the project will start from the current year after which Hindus in Pakistan will also be able to visit the site,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of the National Assembly (MNA) Dr Ramesh Kumar told the Express News.
“The Indian government has written several letters to Pakistani authorities on this proposal,” the report said.
The shrine is a 5,000 years old highly reverent place of worship for Hindus. It is also considered the oldest education centre for some Hindus which was established in 237 BC during the reign of Maharaja Ashoka. The temple was also once regarded as the foremost centres of higher learning in the Indian subcontinent. It is also one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, or a “Grand Shakti Peethas” and is considered to be the abode of Hindu Goddess Saraswati.
The ancient temple of Sharada and the adjacent ruins of Sharada University lie in Neelam Valley, 160 km from Muzaffarabad, and right across the LoC in a small village, Shardi or Sardi, where the river Neelam (Kishanganga) converges with the Madhumati and Sargun streams.
‘Is JeI unlawful?’ GoI tribunal to decide
New Delhi, Mar 25: The Government of India has constituted a tribunal headed by a Delhi High Court judge to decide whether there is sufficient cause for declaring Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir as an unlawful association.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on March 23 issued a notification which states that Justice Mukta Gupta would head the tribunal set up under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Justice Gupta is presently heading another tribunal set up under UAPA to ascertain whether there was sufficient cause to extend the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) as an unlawful association.
The tribunal’s proceedings with regard to the ban on SIMI commenced on February 28 and is ongoing.
As the proceedings against SIMI commenced, the same day, the central government banned Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) Jammu and Kashmir for five years under the “anti-terror” law on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and is expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the state.
The government in its February 28 notification banning JeI said it was of the opinion that the Jamaat is “in close touch with militant outfits” and is supporting “extremism and militancy” in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.
It said the outfit claims “secession of a part of the Indian territory from the union” and supports militant and separatist groups fighting for this purpose.
Sikhs, not Modi, saved Kashmiri students outside : Omar Abdullah
Baramulla, March 26: National Conference vice president and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said that...
Imran Khan urges EU to highlight Human Rights violations in Kashmir
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged European Union to highlight the human rights violations in Kashmir. He made...
China destroys 30,000 maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India, calls them incorrect
Customs officials in China have destroyed 30,000 world maps printed in the country for not mentioning Arunachal Pradesh and Taiwan...
Indian, Pakistani troops exchange heavy fire on LoC
Indian and Pakistani armies exchanged heavy fire on the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri...
7 Govt School teachers suspended for social media posts on Modi, Pulwama
New Delhi: At least seven government school teachers in Uttar Pradesh have been suspended for posting comments critical of the ruling...
Omar welcomes Pak approval for opening of Sharda Peeth
Srinagar, Mar 26: Calling opening of Sharda Peeth a welcome step, National Conference Vice President and former Jammu and Kashmir...