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Save Gulmarg campaign shifts to SMSs

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 19:43 IST
Arun Joshi
Highlight Story

Gulmarg land lease issue is well poised to snowball into a major political controversy in Kashmir, as a vigorous campaign against it is underway to pin down the Government on the issue.

Despite the state government having put on hold its decision to lease land in Gulmarg for construction of hotels and resorts ,there is no let up in the anti-land lease campaign.

A sample of the campaign is  visible in  the SMSs being forwarded on the mobile phones of the people of Kashmir.  It reads:

"SAVE GULMARG & HELP US….
MATTER IS NOT WHOM 2 LEASE,
BUT THE MATTER IS Y 2 LEASE?
CONSTRUCTION ON BEAUTIFUL MEADOWS
WILL TURN PARADISE IN2 HELL"

Hundreds of these SMSs have been forwarded among the mobile phone subscribers in Kashmir since Saturday evening, two days after Tourism Minister Mohammed Dillawar Mir announced that the auction of land in Gulmarg would not take place as scheduled earlier.

The land in Gulmarg was to be auctioned to permanent residents of the state. Then, they were entitled to enter into collaboration with non-permanent residents of the state to build luxurious five-star hotels and world class resorts to cater to needs of the high spending tourists.

Having sensed that the Government had tried to douse the flames of protests over the issue by putting the land lease on hold, the activists in this campaign have now based their campaign on  vandalism of beauty and environment of Kashmir.

Their earlier theme was  stalling “sale of Kashmir to outsiders.”

Various reasons are at play. The CBI probe into sex scandal, which led to the highly influential people landing behind bars, established the  credibility of the country’s premier investigative agency in Kashmir.

Two former ministers, senior bureaucrats and police and paramilitary officials were arrested . The people viewed it as a sign of credible investigation by CBI.

Separatists were not happy with that. They want to tear the credibility tag that has come to be associated with India, via CBI work.

Separatists, particularly hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani launched a campaign against the land lease decision within days after it was announced.

This campaign received an overwhelming support from the people and parties. So much so, even mainstream National Conference has joined hands and has threatened to launch a full–flooded  campaign  during the coming Assembly session.

People fear that with the expansion of construction boom to places like Gulmarg, Kashmir was in danger of losing its distinct pristine beauty. And the whole idea behind the issue is to pin down the Gulam Nabi Azad government.

Azad is the first Congress CM of Jammu and Kashmir in the past 30 years, and is perceived as a man from Delhi ruling over Kashmir, separatists are strengthening the campaign on this theme as well.

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