The Darker Side of Our J&K Tour Experiences

On Indian Tourists :Indian Tourists are the same everywhere ( within India, that is!).  “Travel broadens the Mind ….. But you must have a Mind in the first place”,  said G.K Chesterton long time back. This statement best summarizes the attitude of an average Indian tourist! Let me explain. Even as I was dumbstruck by the majesty and beauty of the Himalayas, I didn’t miss the terrible mess of plastic wastes lying scattered everywhere. In Pahalgam, for instance, I could see  plastic bottles strewn all over the hill station. In fact when I saw a guy throwing a PET bottle in reckless abandon, I tried to reason with him with little or no effect on him!

And again, where is the need to allow so many restaurants at a hill station?  I could count at least 20 odd eating places at Gulmarg ? They are quite an eye sore in an otherwise serene environment. You can’t have beautiful nature coexisting with man made filth. Can you?

On Security: Security is still a major issue in Kashmir. Our driver from Jammu kept telling us horrible stories about Kashmir and kashmiris. Based on these stories, one can safely conclude that Kashmir still lives up to its image of a MINI PAKISTAN. I believe there are so many outfits with differing loyalties and identities, but they are all united in one thing – that is the hate campaign against the rest of India including Jammu muslims. Today Muslims  constitute 95% of  the population in Kashmir as  Hindus were driven out systematically over a period of time. No one (from the rest of India) can buy property in Kashmir. While people from Jammu are legally allowed to buy property, Kashmiris never ever sell property to them.  Kashmir is such a closed society that the law requires that outsiders have to take a local partner for doing  business. The majority stake in any business will have to be owned by a local kashmiri. Very often, while the outsider  slogs out, the local guy would visit periodically to collect his share of profits.

What will happen if you ever get into a Dispute with a Kashmiri ? Very simple. The kashmiri is always right and has the right to beat you up. Our driver narrated a shocking story of a UP vendor (a boy) selling eggs outside our hotel in Pahalgam. A local Kashmiri , also selling eggs, attacked him and threw away his cart carrying several baskets of eggs. The boy lost all his eggs in a flash even as he watched helplessly. None of the drivers around came to his rescue  fearing that they would be beaten up. That was not the end of the his woes. Unfortunately for the boy, his cart hit a parked car and  damaged it partly. As expected, the car owner now started abusing the poor boy.  God knows what happened later.

Pahalgam also has a strong taxi union which doesn’t allow any taxi from outside for local sightseeing. If any one is found violating, the driver would be beaten up.
So, as a tourist, one is advised against getting into altercation with the local kashmiris.

For all its appearances of  being calm and peaceful today, I believe Kashmir is still strife ridden. Tourists are  spared for whatever reason! There are so many groups and outfits fighting with each other.  Indian Army tries to keep peace by playing one group against the other (by the famous ‘divide & rule’ principle). This is a game of  one-upmanship between the Indian Army and their Pakistani counterpars with terrible consequences for the innocent civilians. Every day the near and dear ones of innocent families are either missing or lost thanks to this rivalry. No one knows the truth as every body is busy fabricating and spreading lies and half- truths about the happenings.

Two important Don’ts: Tourists are advised not to travel on ghat roads in dark for obvious reasons. They are also advised not to venture out to old town areas of Srinagar ( Lal Chowk being one of the areas which is highly volatile with a dangerous flash point!). The old town area of Srinagar is the hotbed of rivalry, in-fights and crime among its various groups. Therefore, it is best to stick to popular tourist destinations.
We nearly got into trouble with a local broker who booked us in a place close to old Srinagar town area.  Lucky for us we escaped into safer parts of the city before the broker could reach us to demand his pound of flesh!

The idea of writing this post is NOT to scare you away from a trip to Kashmir. It is only intended to forewarn you about possible dangers so that proper precautions may be taken.

Published in: on May 27, 2012 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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