Flower power aims to heal Kashmirs wounds
28 January 2007
The Daily Times
Islamabad: Officials in Indian Kashmir have a new idea they hope will breathe life into a region drained by nearly three decades of fighting flower power. The worlds largest tulip garden will soon bloom, they say, in the hope the promise of petals set against snow-capped mountains will lure tourists back to a land torn by years of separatist violence. Siraj Bagh is being planted on the banks of famous Dal lake in the heart of Kashmirs summer capital, Srinagar, home to 2,000 ornately-carved pinewood houseboats popular with tourists. Over 350,000 tulip bulbs have already been planted in the garden, said KK Sharma, whose government department is in charge of the project. We are sure over a million tulips will bloom next year. Officials say more than 400,000 tourists visited Indian Kashmir last year despite a series of attacks on visitors which killed at least 15 Indian tourists. But thats a fraction of the number who used to visit when Kashmir was a top Asian destination, popular among honeymooners, skiers, trekkers and anglers. In 1989 simmering anger against New Delhis rule burst into a violent rebellion which was left tens of thousands dead. Most western countries still caution citizens against travel to Kashmir, but authorities say violence has steadily decreased in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule in parts, began a peace process in 2004.