Regardless of the tension between India and Pakistan, regardless of the military concentration on both sides of the border, and regardless of the n-number of attacks – the director of the tourism department in Kashmir – Mahmood Ahmad Shah says, “Jammu and Kashmir is completely safe for tourists” – and there’s a good reason – the undying Kashmiryat.
What is called the heaven on Earth may have been deemed to be “unsafe”, but official government records by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) testify that despite the implied unrest, Jammu and Kashmir has remained, and still is, the only state in the country to have ‘zero crime record’ against tourists. As per the state tourism records, the Valley openheartedly welcomed 1 crore domestic tourists and 1 lakh foreign tourists last year – with 30% Gujarati tourist, and 25% from Bengal for the second highest. The MHA record highlights that “there has not been a single incident of crime against tourists, including women and foreigners”.
Besides the police and security forces performing duties in the “seventh schedule of the Constitution of India”, it is the comradeship, the ethno-national approach, the social consciousness, the cultural values and the hospitality of the people of Kashmir that makes the “unsafe state” to be the safest Indian state for tourists. Letting aside the radicalism, vandalism and harassment that Kashmiris outside Kashmir have been subject to, they have always opened their hearts and their doors for tourists from across the country and world.
In the times of turmoil, the very same Kashmiri society, which majorly depends on tourism, are vulnerable to sufferings – economic or otherwise. It is the media and the government who can take efforts to create a new global visual and verbal brand identity for the precious state that the Valley is. And it is for people like us, who decided to take a look into the real Kashmir that is anchored in the pristine Himalayas, hymned by the melodious streams and embellished with the sublime snow-capped mountains – for it is a heaven-like destination, and people with big hearts – all awaiting to welcome us, the tourists.
“Agar Firdous Bar Roo-e-ZameenAst, HamieAst, HamieAst, HamieAst” (If there is paradise on earth it’s here, it’s here, it’s here).