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February 6, 2010

Militancy, shutdown hit tourism in Kashmir Valley

     Srinagar: The ongoing violence and imposition of curfew in the Kashmir Valley has completely paralysed life. Tourism is one of the worst hit sectors. At present, tourist hubs like the Dal Lake are completely deserted. It has affected houseboat and shikara (wooden boat) owners. "Violent attacks and disturbances in the Kashmir Valley become worldwide news very quickly, thus affecting the tourism greatly. People are being killed; there are incidents of stone pelting on the roads every now and then, so who will want to come here? questions Reyaz Ahmad, a houseboat owner. If somebody is spending money then they don't want to see bullets, stones or army. Even the government can't do much in this case," he added. State authorities were expecting a huge influx of visitors this season due to the heavy snowfall in Gulmarg, but unrest in the valley has stopped foreign tourists from travelling to the region. "It's a shame because it does make the tourists probably feel a little uncomfortable. But up here in Gulmarg the situation is a bit better than Srinagar. So it is better if tourists travel directly to Gulmarg," said James Pove, a tourist from New Zealand. "But this atmosphere makes the whole thing more edgier and obviously not attractive for tourists. We want harmony and peace in Srinagar because it is a beautiful place," Pove added. The shutdown in parts of Valley entered its sixth consecutive day on Saturday following the killing of Wanik Farooq, a teenager, in a teargas shelling incident. On Friday, another teenager Zahid Farooq died when security forces opened fire on a mob during a protest near the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Inspector General's office in the Kralsangri-Brain Nishat area. All shops, business establishments and government offices remained closed, and the traffic stayed off the roads. Authorities have imposed a curfew in five police station areas of Srinagar to thwart protests. "Today is the sixth day of this shutdown. I am facing quite a lot of hardships as my college is closed and I couldn't even fill my form. All the shops are closed. Because of the curfew, no movement of traffic is allowed," said Irfan Ahmad, local resident. Meanwhile, over 70 leaders have been taken into preventive custody.
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