The life is on hold. Uncertainties of the present threaten to worsen in future. That is the only certainty at the moment. There is no roadmap in sight to help J&K to come out of the present quagmire caused by the pandemic, tightening its grip with every passing day.
Nothing is valid, not even the questions: how it happened, where was the failure and how successful have been the efforts to contain the pandemic, because there is no definite answer from anyone. There can be assumptions, but not the factual positions. Statistics tell only a limited story. The reality lies somewhere else. It will be known only when the whole extent of the problem is diagnosed and revealed. And, an added fact is that facts will not come about the pandemic any time soon. It is an era of pain and more pain unless nature reverses its course to normal that we enjoyed and also used to plunder the nature by all possible corrupt and irresponsible ways.
Kashmir is in lockdown. That means more than the word lockdown denotes. This time it is because of the pandemic, but what will happen in future is not known, not even soothsayers have the capacity to peep into future and predict it. Kashmir has lived with unpredictable times for years together, but the unpredictability of the pandemic -induced fears is unheard of.
For the time being, it is crude and rude to say so, J&K will not be able to revive tourism anytime soon. There are fears in the minds of the people – first, they don’t know when the things will become normal, the kind of which we were used to before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine that used to attract nearly 10 million pilgrims annually has been suspended. It has broken the economic backbone of Jammu region. And, when will it resume, no one is able to say it with certainty. The people across the country are getting used to watch prayers at the temple on TV channel. The physical distances have been covered by the airwaves. But, certainly a time will come when the devotees would return to seek blessings of the deity. The deity is testing her devotees and their resolve and faith during these times. But there is an economic angle too – the devotees not only make offerings at the temple but also contribute in a large way to the economy of the region.
And, those devoted to Kashmir and perennial lovers of its beauty are waiting for the “paradise on earth” to re-open for them. Some of the social media activists are doing a great service to the cause of Kashmir, its image and its hospitality by posting pictures of the beautiful places, mountains, lakes, rivers and landscape. It is a hopeful sign. They are seeking to generate confidence of the people of the Valley and the would be tourists from across the world that Kashmir has not changed, its beauty and hospitality lives on even during the times of the crisis that has hit worldwide. There is an underlying message, come and stay here in the lap of the beauty. The time line of the visit is left to the visitors.
But, they also know that the would be tourists, as and when they would pack their bags for holidaying in Kashmir, fears will accompany them. One of the fears that they will bring along with them is about their safety at the place of their holidaying. It is true not only with regard to Kashmir but all the tourist destinations in the country and abroad as well.
J&K has to find a way out – here tourism is much beyond the economy and its image. It is a battle to discover new ways. The tourists will need confidence of new set-the virus-free Kashmir. The term safe was used to say that there is no fear of violence against them from any quarter. But these are different times and safety has changed its definition universally, Kashmir is no exception.
First thing required for better times, conducive for the revival of the tourism, is that the whole of J&K has to stand as one – social distancing being the top most priority – to help in fighting and finishing off the virus. The task is far beyond the zero cases from across J&K, it is also to ensure that how the people within J&K can travel within and visit the places, showcasing their love for picnics. That activity as and when possible would bring dividends. Within our limited resources we can help glorify ourselves and the places where we live in. We will have to take first step to revive tourism. Then social media will help us to get the tourists from green zones across the world.