The Tourism Indiastry
In Kashmir is everything informed by the logic of control!
MEHMOOD UR RASHID
Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a directive to the CRPF, one of the Central security organizations enjoying profuse presence in Kashmir, to vacate the hotels this security agency have been occupying for almost two decades. These hotels are situated on the Boulevard Road, part of the road ring around Dal Lake. The reason for issuing such a directive is very simple; Srinagar these days is a swollen city. Direct your gaze anywhere and tourists from mainland India are cooling themselves off in the gentle temperatures of our valley. They are in the streets, on the roads, zooming past in the vehicles, strolling on the pavements, and filling the shops. They are everywhere, and we don’t have a problem with their presence as tourists.
Travel is an individual activity that brings much in its wake; personal and collective. Apart from what a person gains in terms of experience and joy, it sets in motion an economic cycle. Not just this, it makes cultures and histories flow into each other. It is how people meet, share, and leave memories for the posterity. It is another way of how earth moves around its own contents. May be it is a permanent protest against creating borders in the name of nationalisms. But all is not well with this human activity when it becomes an industry. And in Kashmir most certainly not.
When crass materialism throws a ring around it, tourism breeds many unpleasant things. In such an atmosphere travel is exclusively read as trade. Profit is the only consideration. Tourist is a customer and no beyond. Similarly there are problems of culture. But in Kashmir this is not the worry that strikes in the first place. Here the dominant source of unease is how the project of tourism is made subservient to the overarching political ends. Tourism and its related activities have a definite political task in Kashmir. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that all the people associated with this industry, in private sector or the government departments, need not be a part of that political project. In fact majority doesn’t even know what flow beneath the surface.
Is Kashmir’s economy really dependent on tourism or it is being purposely made so. Why should Kashmir be dependent on an economy that is unpredictable and highly vulnerable. And if it is an economic activity why always bracket it with the political situation of Kashmir. Why is it always placed as a parenthetic remark in a talk about return of normality in Kashmir. And do we really bother to ask the GoI why it is apparently so keen on reviving tourism in Kashmir, but at the same time doesn’t do anything to convince the international audience that Kashmir is a safe place. On the contrary everything is done to strengthen the image of Kashmir as a hotbed of ‘Islamic Terror’. If tourism has to really pick up in Kashmir, we need Europe, US and Mid East, and China too. How much of an interest has the GoI shown in promoting Kashmir as a safe place – where even the armed struggle has distinctly differentiated between state and the people - for the international tourists.
Here is another side of it. Tourism doesn’t alone mean people coming to Kashmir. People from Kashmir going to different parts of the world is also tourism. Do we find any schemes and packages to ease the international travel for Kashmiris. We have age old relations with the entire Muslim world – Arab, Persia and Central Asia. What has been done by the government to make is easier for Kashmiris to visit these places. Is Israeli tourist coming to Kashmir important to us and not a Kashmiri going to Palestine!
Lastly, take this recent directive. When 6000 rooms were occupied by the CRPF for years together it was no worry. Then it was a matter of space that belonged to Kashmir and Kashmiri. Now when they need space for their own people the thought comes to them that hotels are actually meant for tourists. A catastrophic irony. Look at how the CRPF has responded to it. According to the report they have yet to receive any information but in case there was any such directive, they would vacate the rooms only when an alternative arrangement was made. That means 6000 more rooms have to be surrendered by Kashmiris to accommodate them! Is it demilitarization of civilian spaces in Kashmir, or militarization of civilian activities in India!
If the arrival of tourists really means that Kashmir is not a problem now, why the security personnel occupying hotels, and other spaces in Kashmir, are not simply asked to pack off. And go back.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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