The agony of losing a fellow traveller to a violent attack can frighten even the toughest amongst us, but around 45 holidaymakers whose cavalcade of vehicles came under attack by stone-throwing protestors on Monday in Narbal that killed their companion continued with their vacation as per the original itinerary nonetheless.
Busy posing for pictures with the locals, the tourists although grieved by the incident decided not to cut short their vacation. These tourists were part of the same group that was travelling to the ski resort of Gulmarg, in which 22-year-old R Thirumani from Chennai was critically injured who later succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.
According to K Saranya, a woman tourist from Chennai, the death of the tourist was tragic but instead of panicking, their group decided to stay back in the Valley, she said. Saranya said it was unanimously decided to complete the tour as per the scheduled itinerary.
“It was a tragic incident in which a youngster from our group died. There has been a lot of support from the locals and the authorities for us and we feel completely safe,” says Saranya. She said the group has been going ahead with sightseeing in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley.
“Apart from Gulmarg, we visited the Mughal gardens and also took a shikara ride and it was quite refreshing. Except for that one incident, our tour was quite memorable. People should come and enjoy the beauty of Kashmir,” Saranya said.
Another tourist, V Manoharahan said the traumatic incident notwithstanding, the locals were quite welcoming. “People in the Valley are quite welcoming and in testing times they have extended their help and support to us,” said Manoharahan.
D Maladi, another tourist, who was also part of the same group, said there were almost 45 holidaymakers travelling in half a dozen vehicles when they were caught in the stone throwing protest. “ All I can recollect is that there were stones flying from everywhere,” Maladi said.
According to officials, in the last few years with the increase in number of south Indian tourists visiting Kashmir, tourism players, who have suffered huge losses since last three years, were seeing a ray of hope for the revival of the sector in the valley. A tour operator, not wishing to be named said less impact of ‘negative media publicity’ on south Indian tourists in the past had led to an increase in their arrivals since the last two years.
“The influx of tourists from the 5 southern states had increased and we keep our fingers crossed that this incident does not impact that. People in south, unlike other parts of the country are less influenced by the negative publicity and propaganda of national media especially Hindi news channels, so they were increasingly visiting us,” said a tour operator.
U Gokulakrishnan, the proprietor of the Tamil Nadu-based Gokul Tours and Travels, who was accompanying a group of 32 tourists to Kashmir a few months back had told that he would be keen to bring more groups of tourist here. “People down south are eager to escape from the scorching summer heat and I hope forthcoming summer season will attract more people from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir,” said Gokulakrishnan had said then.
Another tourist, Mahesh Prabark, who is presently leading a tour group from Chennai, said he is visiting the Valley with a group of 134 tourists since last four days has been “a learning but memorable experience”. “ For first two days, we were somewhat scared to go for sightseeing but now we are enjoying a lot,” he said.