Kashmir's adventure tourism pioneer M Ashraf is no more

Former Director General Tourism and Greater Kashmir columnist M. Ashraf passed away on Tuesday night at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences after a brief illness.

His Namaz-e-Janaza was held on Wednesday morning and he was laid to rest at Polytechnic graveyard Gogji Bagh.

His death has been widely condoled by the members of civil society and those associated with tourism. Many of them also took to social media for extending condolences.

In the social circles, M. Ashraf was known to be passionate about promoting tourism.

Considered as the founder of adventure tourism in Kashmir, M. Ashraf played a key role in developing Ladakh as a tourist destination and bringing it on the tourist map of the world. He frequently wrote on the history of the land, tourism and other issues. He also authored a couple of books on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

M Ashraf was a trained engineer from Regional Engineering College Srinagar and eventually landed in the administration. He was part of a youth movement and was even arrested at one point of time. He served the tourism department for around 30 years and rose to become its Director General, a position he retained till his retirement in 2003.

J&K Tourism Department condoles demise:

The Department of Tourism has condoled the demise. As per an official statement, a condolence meeting was convened at the Directorate of Tourism here in which the speakers recalled the contribution rendered by late M Ashraf in the development of Tourism in Jammu & Kashmir. The condolence meeting was chaired by Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez. Hafeez said late M Ashraf was an encyclopaedia of Kashmir tourism whose contribution in its growth and development is unparalleled.

“He had the passion of promoting Kashmir tourism to such an extent that he did it even after his retirement through his newspaper columns and books. He popularised adventure tourism in Jammu & Kashmir in a big way and his contribution in getting Ladakh on the tourist map would always immortalise Ashraf sahib,” the Tourism Secretary said in his address in the condolence meeting.

Director Tourism, Kashmir, Nisar Ahmad Wani said that with his vast experience in tourism, trekking and adventure sports, M Ashraf made a phenomenal contribution to J&K’s tourism which would be remembered by one and all. He also prayed for peace to the departed soul.

Similar condolence meetings were held at the offices of the Tourism Department at New Delhi and Jammu which was held in the Directorate of Tourism, Jammu, under the chairmanship of Director Tourism, R.K. Katoch in which the officials condoled the demise, said the statement.

Tourism trade bodies:

The tourism fraternity has expressed sympathy with the bereaved family. In a statement issued here, various tourism trade bodies said they held a condolence meeting and prayed for the forbearance to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss. “M Ashraf was a revolutionary officer who promoted J&K’s tourism, especially adventure tourism in Kashmir and Ladakh. His passing away is a great loss to tourism trade,” said a joint statement issued by six tour trade bodies. The associations which have expressed deep condolence include Travel Agents Society of Kashmir, J&K Tourism Alliance, Pilgrimage and Leisure Tour Operators Forum, Travel Agents Association of India (J&K chapter), JK Tourist Trade Interest Guild and SKAL International Club – Srinagar.

JKSTEP:

Jammu and Kashmir Society for Trekking and Environmental Preservation (JKSETP) has expressed grief over M Ashraf’s demise. In a statement issued here,  JKSTEP said its members were “saddened and deeply grieved over the demise.” “JKSTEP  expresses condolence to the bereaved family and prays for the departed soul. May his soul rest in peace,” the statement said. “His works as DG tourism for the promotion of adventure tourism will be remembered. We have lost a great patron of tourism in general and the adventure sector in particular.”

KCSDS and others:

The Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies has said that its members are “extremely grieved to know about the passing away of a proud son of the soil, M Ashraf. In a statement issued here KCSDS chairperson Hameedah Nayeem said Ashraf was very learned about his field of expertise “and a prolific writer who wrote hundreds, even thousands of articles in GK which were well researched and exuded great passion for his land and its people.”

“He exhibited a wide range of knowledge on history, geography, environment, forests of Kashmir and other affiliated fields. Yet he was very humble and a noble soul and always available for his friends. May his soul rest in peace. It will take a long time to come to terms with his loss,” Nayeem said.

Columnist Ahmad Kashmiri has expressed condolences on the demise of M Ashraf. “He had much affection with Gulmarg. May his soul rest in peace and he be granted a place in Janat Ul Firdous,” Kashmiri said in a statement.

Former Managing Director, J&K State Road Transport Corporation, A Hameed has expressed condolence over the demise. In a statement, Hameed said, “Kashmir has lost an illustrious son.”

Jammu and Kashmiri Civil Society Forum has expressed grief over the demise. In a statement issued here JKCSF Chairman Abdul Qayoom Wani said that late Ashraf “was a silent legendary person holding excellence in many dimensions from adventure to an eminent writer.”