‘No Mini-skirts’: Jamiat Wants Dress Code For J&K Tourists

‘No Mini-skirts’: Jamiat Wants Dress Code For J&K Tourists

4 July 2012
Times of India
M. Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: Just when tourism is peaking in Kashmir, the Jamiat-e-Islami on Wednesday asked the state tourism department to impose a 'dress code' on those visiting the Valley, particularly from foreign countries. Jamiat spokesman Zahid Ali said the tourism department must instruct tourists not to wear clothes that are contrary to the 'local ethos and culture'. 'Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen in mini-skirts and other objectionable dresses that are against our ethos and culture, and unacceptable to civil society,' he said, adding, 'Kashmiris cannot, for the sake of their economy, give up their divine (sic) values at any cost.' The tourism department ignored the call. 'We can't instruct tourists to visit in a particular kind of dress. This won't be taken well internationally,' said an official. Around four lakh tourists have visited Kashmir so far and the government is expecting another 13 lakh this year. Joining cause with the Jamiat, separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani demanded that foreign tourists, particularly Israelis, be discouraged from visiting the Valley. Justifying its dress code for tourists, the Jamiat-e-Islami said the influx of foreign culture was a well-planned design of anti-Islamic forces to deviate Kashmiri Muslims from their religious ethos. 'The tourism department must not encourage this cultural aggression against Kashmiri Muslims. On the pretext of promoting tourism, they promote vulgarity, alcoholism, drug trafficking and other immoral activities,' the Jamiat said. The diktat is reminiscent of the early 1990s when JKLF, a militant outfit, banned cinema halls, wine shops and beauty parlours, calling these anti-Islamic and against ethos of the Valley. Kashmir has witnessed record tourist arrivals this year, both domestic and foreign - who form the mainstay of the state's economy. The tourism department says more than 4 lakh tourists have visited the valley so far. This excludes the roughly 1,30,000 pilgrims who are here for the annual Amarnath Yatra. Times View It is really unfortunate that hardliners in the Valley should have taken such a stance, particularly at this stage. Tourists had just started getting more confident about visiting Kashmir after several years. Given how much tourism can contribute to the economy of a state like Jammu & Kashmir, that was good news not just for those wanting to visit the place but much more so for Kashmiris themselves. By handing out such veiled threats about dress codes, the hardliners are seriously setting back that process. The ball is now in the state government's court. It must not only issue a strong statement assuring tourists that they will be safe, it will have to show with its deeds that it will not tolerate such vigilantism and cultural policing.