Protest against attacks on tourists
14 July 2006
Srinagar: Hundreds of people associated with the tourist trade on Friday staged a protest demonstration in Tangmarg condemning the recent attack on tourists, which has badly hit the industry. Shops were closed in the town, which is close to Gulmarg, the famous tourist spot where eight persons were injured on Wednesday when militants hurled a grenade at a bus carrying tourists. Protesters shouted slogans such as 'Expose killers; don't harm tourists,' and 'Don't kill tourists, they are our guests.' The owners of ponies that ferry tourists also joined the protests. The protesters demanded a high- level probe into these incidents. They said it was a conspiracy to destabilise the economy of Kashmir. After the recent attacks, hundreds of tourists have abandoned their plans. The setback to the industry is visible. Deserted look The otherwise busy Boulevard Road in Srinagar wears almost a deserted look; the houseboats are also empty. House Boat Owners' Association president Aziz Tuman admits that the attacks had dealt a severe blow to the tourist season, which was in full bloom this year. 'Tourism in Kashmir is finished and 90 per cent of houseboats are vacant now,' he said. Against the over six lakh tourists who visited Kashmir last year, nearly three lakh had enjoyed their stay in valley this year. The Government had fixed a target of 11 lakh tourists this season and the advance bookings indicated that it was possible to achieve that. But officials now say that people are scared, resulting in bulk cancellations. 'Nobody wants to get killed like this, though blasts are a worldwide phenomenon,' said tourism officials. 'We are making best possible security arrangements for them [tourists],' they said. Butmany tourists arenot taking any chances despite assurances. 'Death cannot be avoided, but I don't want such a horrible death, that too after spending my hard-earned money on my honeymoon,' said a young tourist from Delhi. He said his holiday had turned into 'a terrifying nightmare.' Gulmarg and Pahalgam, two most favoured destinations, are also witnessing the exit of tourists. Farooq Ahmed Lone, Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority, said that the number of tourists had trickled down but 'not to that extent.'