Updated: May 8, 2018 7:17:25 pm
A day after a tourist from Chennai was killed in Kashmir after his vehicle attacked by stone pelters, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday called for an all-party meeting of the political parties to discuss the situation in the valley.
“Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is convening an all-party meeting in Srinagar tomorrow to discuss the prevailing situation with political parties across the board”, an official spokesperson said.
On Monday, 22-year-old Chennai resident S Thirumani, who was holidaying in the Valley with his family, died after his vehicle was attacked by stone pelters. Upset over the incident, Mufti had termed it as “murder of humanity”, something she said was unheard of in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP, which is in alliance with the ruling PDP, in the state has said the attack on tourists was aimed at hurting the economic activities and the vibrant tourism sector in the state. “This attack has come at a time when the tourist season is just commencing and all stake-holders linked with the tourist industry were keenly awaiting the arrival of tourists in large numbers,” BJP national vice president Avinash Rai Khanna said.
“Such incidents come as a shock for all, including the tourists,” he said, adding that tourists have planned their visit in advance and booked hotels, lodges and houseboats.
Army needs to be firm with terrorists: Defence Minister
Condemning the killing of Thirumani as ‘unfortunate’, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said such incidents are not “very conducive” for tourism in the Valley. The minister also said armed forces have to be firm with terrorists and described the Kashmir issue as “very sensitive” and nuanced.
Responding to a question on whether the Army’s tough posture in dealing with the situation in the Valley has led to a spike in militancy, the defence minister said the armed forces have to be firm with terrorists. She said there is need to understand that the issue is very sensitive and has a great deal of nuance.
“You can’t hold the armed forces responsible for being firm with terrorists. We need to be firm with terrorists. So, we have to understand first about putting everything back at the doorstep of the Army… They have to be firm…,” she said.
Tourism industry fear falling footfall
The fragile tourism industry in Kashmir has taken another blow with the death of the Chennai tourist, and the sector fears that the incident may further affect the already falling footfall in the troubled Valley. The killing of the Chennai youth could be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of tourism in Kashmir, Ashfaq Siddiq, president Travel Agents Association Kashmir (TAAK), said today.
“This is a sad incident which should not have happened. Unfortunately, we feel that it will have an impact on tourist arrivals to Kashmir. I think it will be the final nail in the coffin,” Siddiq told PTI.
Tourism in the state has already suffered because of prolonged periods of unrest in the Valley, hoteliers said. There has been a steep fall in the number of domestic tourists since 2016, when the killing of militant Burhan Muzaffar Wani by security forces in July that year led to a prolonged period of violence and stone pelting in the Valley.
The number of tourists fell from 3,91,902 in the first four months of 2016 to 1,69,727 in the same period the next year. The number in the corresponding period this year was 1,54,062, officials said.
(With PTI inputs)
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