From conflict zone to tourist destination

A story of hope and optimism
File Photo
File Photo

Keran, May 5 : Amidst the lush fields, near the river streams, and jungle trails lies the small village of Keran, located in the laps of high mountains in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

For decades, the village was known for its constant fear of bullets and near-continuous shelling, making it an unlikely destination for tourists. However, in recent years, the situation has changed, and Keran has opened its doors to visitors. 76-year-old Abdul Rehman Khan, a resident of Keran, has seen the transformation of his village. "Soon after the insurgency started in the 1990s, we had to bear the brunt.

Many villagers even migrated to the other side of the river to escape from the daily atrocities," he recalls. But today, tourists can be seen strolling on the lush fields near the Neelum river, dividing India and Pakistan.

To reach Keran, visitors must pass through the Firkiyan Gali, which is located at an altitude of 9,634 ft. The scenery along the way gives one an impression of the landlocked valley stuck back in time. Despite the easing of daily life, the area remains under strict surveillance, according to the locals.

The 2021 February ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan ignited hopes among border residents of long-lasting peace, with special occasions and festival celebrations returning to the LoC areas. However, a long road to the betterment of the area remains to be walked.

Raiyees, a 43-year-old businessman, who opened a small restaurant on the banks of the Neelum river, sees hope in the slowly building tourism industry.

"The pace of macadamization work on the road leading to Keran further deepens the belief that good days are ahead," he said. "The new entrepreneurs like me are optimistic that our fortunes will also turn around soon."

As Abdul Rehman Khan watches tourists strolling in the fields, he is filled with hope for a peaceful future for his village. "I never thought I would wake up to a peaceful dawn, but now it seems possible," he said. The village of Keran may have a long way to go, but with the help of the tourism industry, it can take steps towards a brighter future.

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