The tourism fraternity in Kashmir Valley has voiced concern over the statements of union home minister and army chief on the threat to annual Amarnath yatra, saying it would 'sabotage' tourism season in the state. Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had recently said that there was a threat to Amarnath yatra, while chief of army staff General Bikram Singh acknowledged the same on Saturday.
"These statements are untimely and uncalled for. It is being done to scare away yatris and tourists," president of Travel Agents' Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Rauf Tramboo, told PTI.
"Government and security agencies sanitise the yatra routes months before the start of the pilgrimage and what does it mean to raise hue and cry now. It is being done to malign Kashmiris and we condemn it," he said. "Such statements could have a huge negative impact on tourism. Already we are seeing a lot of cancellations," he said.
Supporting Tramboo's concern, president Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association (KHARA), Showkat Chowdhary, said the statements could have a 'disastrous' effect on tourism in the Valley. "These are wrong statements. They can have a disastrous effect on tourist arrivals. It would sabotage tourism season in the state," Chowdhary said. He said Kashmiris had always welcomed yatris even when the situation was really bad.
"We have always welcomed yatris. We honour them. Even during 2008 and 2010, when the situation was bad, no yatri was touched," he said. Chowdhary said the state government and tourism fraternity had worked very hard for reviving the industry but such statements could jeopardise everything.
Kashmir Houseboats Association president, Aziz Tuman had his doubts over the statements and said Kashmiris had always respected human values and religion.
"Religious harmony has always existed in Kashmir. It can be seen during the Amarnath yatra, Kheer Bhawani and festivals of Sikh community. We respect human values and each religion," he said.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday said there was no increased threat perception to this year's Amarnath yatra compared to previous years and fears of attack as reported in the media were 'gross exaggeration'.