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Govt welcomes Hurriyat invite for tourists to Kashmir but BJP slams move

Hurriyat Conference’s invite to tourists and pilgrims to visit Kashmir received conflicting response from the BJP and its government at the Centre, with the former dismissing it as absolute hypocrisy and the government hailing the “initiative”.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2016 23:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Kashmir conflict,Kashmir tourism,Hurriyat leaders
Mehbooba Mufti interacts with members of women self-help groups at Biahnah in Jammu on Wednesday..(PTI File Photo)

The Hurriyat Conference’s invite to tourists and pilgrims to visit the Kashmir Valley received conflicting responses from the BJP and its government at the Centre, with the former dismissing it as absolute hypocrisy and the latter hailing the “initiative”.

Two factions of the Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which have been spearheading the five-month-long unrest in Kashmir, had in a surprise joint statement on Tuesday night invited tourists and pilgrims to visit the Valley to enjoy the traditional hospitality of its people while promising them safety.

Tourism minister Mahesh Sharma welcomed the initiative by the separatist groups and said New Delhi was prepared to see that the tourism industry flourishes in the Valley. “Tourism will change the shape of the Valley and will bring glory a tourism minister I welcome their initiative and, of course, other calls will be taken by the government of India,” Sharma said here.

Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs, said J&K was a “very very important” sector and everybody should promote tourism there. “If there is peace in the Valley, tourism will flourish there and if tourism increases, it will economically benefit the state and its people. Promotional tourism is absolutely necessary to revive the economy because it is a very important part of their social life,” Rijiju said.

But BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav expressed doubts over the separatists’ intentions. “I consider it a spelling mistake. They wanted to say terrorists but ended up saying tourists. They only welcome terrorists and no one believed such statements coming from their side. If they want peace in the Valley, they should stop ‘Calender-Baaji’ (the weekly calendar released by separatists containing agitational programmes during the strike). They should stop terror if they want tourists. On one hand, you instigate terrorists, close down schools, markets and paste calendars and on the other, you stage such a drama. I think it was a spelling mistake,” he said.

Madhav termed it as “absolute hypocrisy” on part of the Hurriyat leadership. “If they want tourists, they should first ensure peace absence of which is the biggest hurdle in bringing back and normalcy in the state,” he said. Madhav also hit out at National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah for supporting the Hurriyat’s call in this regard and questioned the leader’s “change of mind”.

“Farooq Abdullah’s statement is very unfortunate and surprising. He is the same Farooq who used to release statements against Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir Valley and today suddenly he wants to move forward on the path of the Hurriyat,” he said.

Abdullah, while addressing his party workers at a function to commemorate the 111th birth anniversary of his father and party founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah at Hazratbal on December 5, had said his party was not against the Hurriyat and supported the Kashmiris’ demand for their rights but it would not tread the “wrong path” for achieving these goals.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Dec 07, 2016 23:43 IST