Tourists Welcome in Kashmir

Srinagar, June 3: Stating that tourists were “our guests and brothers”, senior Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani Friday said tourists are welcome to Kashmir.

“Tourists visiting Kashmir are our brothers on a humanitarian basis and honorable guests. They are welcome to visit Kashmir,” Geelani said while addressing the media at his residence on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Describing them as respectable guests, he appealed Kashmiri people to behave well with tourists. “The people associated with the tourism sector especially shopkeepers and traders shouldn’t take undue advantage by selling goods to tourists at exorbitant rates. Original and genuine Kashmiri products and handicrafts should be sold to the tourists. We must especially ensure that tourists do not feel a trust deficit while purchasing things because trust, as Socrates has said, is like soul- it cannot be retrieved once it dies,” he said.

The separatist leader, however, said tourists should highlight the sufferings and miseries inflicted on Kashmiri people by the Indian occupation. “They should act as the ambassadors of our peaceful and just struggle in India. We appeal them to tell our plight to others in India, tell the Indian masses that Kashmiris want freedom, fulfillment of promises made by the Indian leadership,” he said.

Geelani also released a pamphlet- “Tourists and Pilgrims Welcome to Kashmir”- which he said would be distributed among the tourists visiting Kashmir. The pamphlet written in English, Urdu and Hindi, appeals tourists ” (to) become my(Geelani’s) ambassador in people of India and raise your voice against suppression of about ten million people. And I am equally confident that you will garner support of all justice loving people for my just cause.”

He termed the government’s allegations that pro-freedom leaders were against peace as baseless. ” The fact is that we are for peace while the government, the police, army and other forces are trouble makers, they don’t want peace in Kashmir.”

Referring to the unrest of last three summers, Geelani said Kashmiris have been protesting peacefully against “injustices being done to them but New Delhi and its allies in Kashmir have killed hundreds of youth, arrested thousands.”

“If india would have been sincere, the Kashmir issue would not have been lingering on for 63 years, there would have been no rigged elections and our youth wouldn’t have been forced to pick up the gun. But the truth is that India has broken promises, it did not even spare its friends, a leader was put in jail for 11 years and released after he surrendered.”

Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.