As 2014 sets in, the overriding sentiment prevailing in the Kashmiri society is one of fervent hope and boundless optimism.
While the businessmen expect a good tourist inflow, mainstream as well as separatist politicians and commoners, especially the youth, in the border state are hopeful that the law granting immunity to the security forces in J&K will be scrapped and the Kashmir issue will be resolved in a peaceful manner. “We are optimistic about 2014. We expect conditions to remain conducive for tourism inflow in the valley. Although the tourism season in 2013 was not up to the mark as it was in 2012 but it was still good,” said G M Dug, president Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF).
He pointed out that tourism is the mainstay of the state’s economy and the hoteliers hope that things will move in the right direction in 2014. Dug said the hoteliers in Kashmir had been renovating the hotels to provide the best possible facilities to the tourists, who come here to enjoy the region’s pristine beauty. “We are hopeful that 2014 will prove a better year for the tourism sector. The signs are encouraging as we are getting enquiries from tourists from different parts of the country, who intend to visit Kashmir,” he said.
Human rights activist and senior leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Khurram Parvez said their only expectation is that good sense should prevail and “immunity” granted to security personnel in the state is withdrawn. He claimed that till date, no person has been punished in J & K for rights violations. Besides, Khurram said the Centre should review its military set up in the state. “It should understand that militarisation of Kashmir is a futile exercise,” he said.
Senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah said 2013 was a tragic year for Kashmir as many civilian killings took place allegedly at the hands of security forces. “In addition to it, there was a communal flare-up in Kishtwar in which three people were killed.”
“We hope that the Kashmir issue will be resolved peacefully and amicably in 2014 through dialogue among all the parties. The Kashmiri leadership must also be involved in the dialogue process to make it result-oriented,” he said.
Shah said the authorities were targeting the youth. “FIRs have been registered against over 5,000 youth and many minors were booked under the infamous Public Safety Act(PSA)and lodged in jails outside Kashmir.”
He, however, expressed the hope that the youth would not face harassment in the New Year and they would be given the necessary space to express their views. Moderate separatist leader Bilal Gani Lone said they hoped that something positive comes up in 2014 and the Kashmir issue is resolved once for all. “We hope that India and Pakistan will realise that it is high time to resolve the Kashmir issue and take concrete steps for the same,” he said