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Paradise lost in few weeks! Tourists, travel agents cancel bookings for upcoming season

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar:  Uncertainty has gripped tourism players after major travel agencies and tourists cancelled their bookings for upcoming autumn season in Kashmir.

For the last over three weeks, Kashmir has been a no-go area for the tourists.   There have been zero arrivals after the state government called off Amarnath yatra and advised tourists and pilgrims to leave Kashmir citing militant threats.

People associated with tourism sector have suffered huge losses after August 5 lockdown. Empty shikaras, vacant houseboats and deserted hotels present a grim picture of the tourism sector.

 

Travel agents claim that the tourists were cancelling bookings for the upcoming autumn season, which commences from September and lasts till November 1.

“Tourists are unsure to visit Kashmir at least for autumn season given the advisory by the government. Our employees in New Delhi have reported that the bookings for autumn have been cancelled,” said Umar Ahmad, a travel Agent.

Mohammad Imran, another Srinagar based travel agent said they have no update about the bookings for the upcoming month since internet connectivity has yet to be restored in Kashmir.

“We are struggling to get an update about the bookings for upcoming months. We ensured the tourists that their money will be returned. But in the absence of internet we are unable to complete the process,” he said. 

Meanwhile, prominent travel agencies in the country have temporarily suspended promoting Kashmir. They are suggesting alternate destinations to the tourists who were keen to visit Kashmir for upcoming months.

President and Country Head- Holiday, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, Rajeev Kale said they have temporarily cancelled tours to Kashmir.

 “Safety and security of our customers being paramount importance to us, we have ensured that all our customers return to their respective home stations,” he said.  “We have cancelled our upcoming tours and expect the situation to stabilize soon.”

He said the company was even suggesting customers to defer their travel plans to Kashmir. “For travelers who have pre-booked their tours with us, we are offering them to opt for alternate destination or defer their travel plans as per their convenience,” Kale said.

Officials said tour operators are advising the tourists to visit other hill stations including Himachal, Ooty and Shimla.

Siddharth, a tourist from Kolkata, told The Kashmir Monitor in an emailed conversation that he along with his friends cancelled their scheduled visit to Kashmir.

“We have cancelled our trip to Kashmir, which was scheduled in January next year. Our parents are not allowing us to visit Kashmir considering the current situation,” he said.


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UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”

“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.

“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.

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Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York

Press Trust of India

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NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.

The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.

Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.

The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.

, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.

Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.

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Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report

Agencies

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.

The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.

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