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Pulwama attack, Indo-Pak acrimony dent Kashmir tourism

80% bookings cancelled, spring arrival hugely impacted

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Feb 28: The ongoing acrimony between India and Pakistan has dented the tourism sector in Kashmir as 80 per cent of the bookings have been cancelled in the last week.

Post Pulwama suicide bombing of February 14, in which 49 paramilitary troopers were killed, a war-like situation exists between the two nuclear-armed countries.

The attack also led to an anti-Kashmir wave in India.

 

Kashmiri students and businessmen in other states were at the receiving end facing harassment, violence and threats to vacate the places.

In midst of the brewing situation, the tourists here cut short their visits, while most of those who had intended to travel to the valley in upcoming months, decided to change or cancel their plans.

The air strikes by India and Pakistan against each other since Tuesday has further impacted the prospects of the upcoming tourism season as many agents have called for skipping Kashmir packages.

President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Ashfaq Ahmed Dugg, told The Kashmir Monitor that nearly 80 per cent of the bookings for Kashmir were cancelled in the last one week.

“Bookings for months including March and April have all been cancelled. There has been a vicious propaganda on TV channels against the safety of tourists in Kashmir, which triggered the cancellation of bookings by the tourists,” Ashfaq said.

He added that a huge chunk of tourists from states including Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal in India and Malaysia and Bangkok prefer to visit Kashmir during the spring season, however, the war-mongering and the anti-Kashmir rhetoric has spoiled those prospects.

“Kashmir has been the only place where tourists felt safe even during the peak of violence. However, even after it, every year we have to fight against the negative portrayal of the valley. We hope the situation improves and more tourists prefer to visit Kashmir,” Ashfaq said.
Umar Ahmad, a Srinagar-based tour operator, said that the majority of the tourists have sought the refund of their bookings.

“We usually seek 50 per cent payment on confirmation of a booking. But, as of now, all we are doing is refunding as many travel agents have boycotted sending tourists to Kashmir,” he said.

Prominent hotelier, Faiz Bakshi said the occupancy in hotels and houseboats have alarmingly dipped post-Pulwama attack amid cries of war between Pakistan and India.“We already had a bleak winter season. Whatever expectation we had for the spring is lost. There was massive cancellation of bookings in the last few weeks and at least two months will be impacted now,” he said.

To mention, soon after the Pulwama attack, scores of political and right-wing Hindu outfits called for boycotting Kashmir tourism even as the people of the valley faced a spate of violence and harassment in other states of India.

Kashmir tourism has been witnessing a slump in arrivals since 2014, as tourists preferred other destinations over the valley due to worsening of the decades-old political conflict in the region.


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Lethpora bombing accused among 2 militants, soldier killed

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Srinagar, Jun 18: An Army soldier and two militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit including one accused of providing the car used in February 14 Lethpora suicide attack were Tuesday killed in an encounter in Bijbehera area of Anantnag district.

A police spokesperson said that on a credible input, a cordon and search operation was launched jointly by police and security forces at Marhama, Bijbehara.

He said as the operation was going on, the hiding militants fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter, he said.

 

In the exchange of fire with the militants, one Army soldier Rifleman Anil Jaswal, sustained gunshot injuries. He was evacuated to the hospital where he succumbed, said the spokesperson.“In the ensuing encounter, two militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. The killed militants have been identified as Sajad Ahmad Bhat and Tawseef Ahmad Bhat both residents of Marhama, Bijbehara,” the spokesperson said.

DGP, Dilbag Singh said: “Sajad was involved in turning his car into an IED in February 14 blast.

As per the spokesperson, both the killed militants were affiliated with militant outfit JeM and “were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of crimes including attacks on security establishments…”

According to the police records, Sajad was wanted in Lethpora blast in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed earlier this year.
“As per the material evidence collected during the course of investigation, it was learnt that Maruti Eco vehicle used for carrying out the blast in Lethpora was owned by Sajad Bhat of Marhama. As the news of Sajad’s involvement spread, he escaped and joined JeM,” said the spokesperson.

“A picture of Sajad carrying AK-47 rifle was also circulated on social media announcing his joining the outfit. Pertinently, Tawseef played a key role in recruiting of Sajad to the militant ranks,” he added.

“Both of them were part of groups involved in planning and executing series of attacks in the area. Several crime cases were registered against them. Some of the crime cases registered against Sajad include case FIR No 16/2018 and case FIR No 28/2019 pertaining to Lethpora attack. Cases registered against Tawseef include case FIR No 95/2018,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, after conducting all legal formalities, police handed over the militants’ bodies to their respective families for last rites.
Reports and eyewitnesses said that thousands of people attended their funeral at Marhama.
Tuesday’s was the second gunfight in the district in as many days.

On Monday, a militant and an Army man were killed in a gunfight at Bidoora Achabal.

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Pulwama IED blast:Two Army personnel succumb

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Srinagar, Jun 18: Two Army personnel, who were injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast at Arihal village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district Monday, succumbed to their injuries on Tuesday.
Srinagar-based defence spokesman said that two army men “with severe contusions/concussions were brought to Army’s 92 base hospital in Srinagar for treatment.”
“The duo succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment in 92 Base Hospital,” the spokesman said.
On Monday, at least a dozen soldiers suffered injuries when an IED which was fitted in a car hit the Hardened ALS vehicle of Army patrolling the area.
Two civilians also sustained injuries in the explosion.

Student’s body found near Achabal encounter site
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Jun 18: Day after the Monday encounter, body of a civilian was found near the encounter site at Bidoora, Aknigam area of Achabal in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
Local residents said that body of Nasir Ahmad Mir (23) son of Fayaz Ahmad Mir of Check Achabal was found by people adjacent to the encounter site at Bidoora Tuesday morning.
Police reached the spot and took the body for post-mortem and other legal formalities.
Nasir, according to locals, was 1st year student at Degree College Anantnag.
On Monday, a militant and an Army man were killed in a gunfight at Bidoora.
Meanwhile, as soon as the news about Nasir’s death spread in the area, shops and other business establishments closed down while transport was off the roads.

 
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2 dead, at least 6 injured as boat capsizes in Lidder; probe ordered; aggrieved Guv announces ex-gratia

Rafting c’ship in Rouf’s name ends in another tragedy

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Jun 18: A rafting championship Tuesday turned tragic in Pahalgam when two people died in an incident of boat capsize.

The championship was organized in honour of Rouf Ahmad Dar, the tourist guide who lost his life while saving five tourists in Lidder stream earlier this month.

The deceased include an employee of the tourism department and a participant who died after their boat capsized in the gushing waters.

 

Reports said that the boat carrying the employee namely Rinku Raja and the female participant namely Sanjna from Jammu along with at least five others, capsized in fast-flowing river.

The incident happened at 4.10 pm after the conclusion of the Rouf Memorial State Rafting Championship event. The 3-day event began on Monday, in which 12 teams from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh participated.

Soon after the incident, a joint team of SDRF, police and local volunteers managed to rescue all of them. They were shifted to the nearby hospital where doctors declared Rinku and Sanjna as brought dead.

Reports quoted BMO Sallar, Dr Shakeel Ahmad saying that both the persons were brought dead while “six others” were injured.

“While five have been admitted one seriously injured person was referred to Srinagar hospital for specialized treatment,” the report said.

Commissioner Secretary Tourism, Rigzin Samphel said that boat capsized in Lidder and injured were shifted to hospital.

On May 31, last month, Rouf Dar saved five tourists, two of them foreigners, after their boat capsized in fast flowing river Lidder near Mawoora area of Pahalgam.

Unfortunately, Dar lost his life in an act of bravery which is being hailed by people and the administration.

Tourism Department Kashmir announced an inquiry into the accident.

The department has expressed deep regrets over the incident and expressed sympathies with the bereaved families.

Meanwhile, Governor Satya Pal Malik has expressed profound grief over the loss of precious lives in the incident.

Governor has prayed for peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families in their hour of grief. He has wished speedy recovery to the injured.

He announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those dead and has directed the authorities to ensure best possible medical treatment of the injured.

Expressing concern over accidents occurring during the adventure sport of Rafting in river Lidder, Governor has issued directions that strict safety measures should be taken before indulging in this sport and emphasised the need for allowing only trained manpower in managing all the activities related to it.

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