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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Shutdown, restrictions hit tourism in Valley

Peerzada Ashiq , Hindustan Times  Srinagar, June 25, 2013
First Published: 19:17 IST(25/6/2013) | Last Updated: 19:18 IST(25/6/2013)

The normal life was brought to a standstill in the Valley during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's two-day visit on Tuesday with separatists shutdown call and extraordinary security measures, keeping people indoors and impacting the tourism industry badly.

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After the militants' spectacle attack on the army on Monday in Srinagar, leaving eight dead, security forces erected barricades of concertina wires and iron gates in all major streets of the city. Special police vehicles were stationed diagonally on the streets to thwart any attempt by militants to reach to the venue, SKICC, situated on the banks of the Dal Lake.

Civilians and medical professionals in the old city complained that there were curfew-like restrictions on their movement. Normal life in Srinagar, which has around 13 lakh population, was brought to a grinding halt with streets wearing deserted look all day. The Board of Technical Education had to postpone all examinations due to prevailing security scenario.

The entire 14-km long tourist hub, starting Dalgate to Mughal gardens like Nishat, Chesmashahi, Botanical Garden, etc., to Hazratbal, saw negligible movement of civilian traffic because of restrictions imposed by the security forces. The stretch houses hundreds of hotels, houseboats and restaurants, which wore deserted look because tourists preferred to stay inside.

"The high-profile visit was ill-timed. Tourists are caged in their hotels and houseboats," said Nayeem Raja, a houseboat owner.

Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) chairman Mohammad Yasin Khan fears that the restrictions and shutdown in the wake of the PM's visit is going to cost heavy on the tourism industry. "The lockdown will incur a loss of Rs. 200 crore a day," said Khan.

Since Monday, the Valley was put under a tight security blanket, marked by random checks and frisking, reducing sharply the movement of tourists in the evening.

The PM is scheduled to visit south Kashmir's Qazigund area, around 80 km away from Srinagar, on Wednesday to inaugurate a 11.5 km long tunnel. There are chances of easing up of restriction in Srinagar on Thursday as separatists have not called for any shutdown.

However, a senior police officer, said, on the condition of anonymity, that the security forces will not lower guard till the prime minister is in the state given challenge from militants and separatists.

"We fear several areas, including tourist hotspot Boulevard, would be sealed for second day tomorrow. It would then bring immense inconveniences to the common people and tourists," said House Boat Owners Association (HBOA) chairman Mohammad Azim Tuman.

Meanwhile, most separatists, like Sayed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were placed under house arrest. Supporters of the Mirwaiz organised a nocturnal protest on Monday night to protest restrictions on the separatist leader to attend a religious gathering. By and large, the day passed off peacefully with minor attempts by MLA Engineer Rashid's supporters and some second-rung separatists to carry out protest marches.

"The PM should given up on India traditional stubbornness on Kashmir and instead fulfil the promises made to people in the international forums," said Geelani, who thanked people for observing a shutdown.


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