Mythbusters: Of Tourism and Occupation

Arsalan Yusuf/KashmirReader A manufactured and psychological dependence of Kashmir on the tourism industry is a meticulously planned one by the occupier in a bid to economically suppress Kashmiris and keep them at its mercy Kashmir and its people face a brute form of Neo-imperialism, a deadly combination of political, military and economic means that unleashes an overwhelming military occupation. While resistance in Kashmir has focused on the political and the military fronts, economic resistance has been largely ignored; also a reason why we focus only on the political fallout of tourism and the way India uses it to gain political mileage, but ignore its economic and cultural repercussions. Indian state has worked insidiously over the last 65 years in general and last 25 years in particular to economically break the back of Kashmiris, thus ensuring Kashmir’s perpetual dependence on its occupier. Ask a common Kashmiri about the economy of Kashmir and he will instantly assert that tourism is the mainstay of Kashmir economy. The answer is a product of systematic bombardment of disinformation by India’s occupational machinery. The truth, however, is far from it and figures speak for themselves. Tourism contributes only 7.93 % to the gross domestic product (GSDP) of Kashmir and provides livelihood to only about 2% of its population. In contrast, agriculture constitutes an important sector of Kashmir’s economy as around 70% of the population derives its income directly or indirectly from this sector. Agriculture also absorbs 49% of the total work force of the state with 42% as cultivators and 7% as agricultural labourers depending directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Indian state has worked insidiously over the last 65 years in general and last 25 years in particular to economically break the back of Kashmiris, thus ensuring Kashmir’s perpetual dependence on its occupier While the government raises an instant hue and cry in the media about any disruption to the tourist season, the same institutions turn a blind eye to the conversion of agricultural land into residential colonies. The government in fact facilitates such things, turning green belt areas into posh residential colonies. In India conversion of agricultural land into residential housing colonies is strictly prohibited and also implemented. But Indian imperial policy in Kashmir conveniently ignores the same in Kashmir. Consequently, the contribution of agriculture to Kashmir’s GDP is decreasing each year. This indifference is not accidental but a deliberate and planned one. India via its media, puppet government and other institutions have created an artificial aura around tourism in Kashmir and constantly bombard Kashmiris with disinformation about the looming destitution in absence of a good tourist season. The gullible Kashmiris are overwhelmed by the propaganda and dangerously pin their hopes on lower-middle class Bengalis and Gujratis among others to provide them livelihood. This manufactured dependence of Kashmir on the tourism industry is a meticulously planned one by the occupier in a bid to economically suppress Kashmiris and keep us at its mercy. As previously mentioned, tourism provides livelihood to only 2% of the Kashmiri population. There is a notion that without tourism Kashmir’s economy will plummet. But the turbulent ‘90s, when there were frequent curfews and shutdowns and still Kashmiris survived, shred this notion to pieces. Since 2004-05 India has desperately tried to “revive” tourism in Kashmir, mainly for political reasons in a bid to present this land as “normal and peaceful”. But there is another sinister side to it apart from gaining political mileage. Ask a common Kashmiri about the economy of Kashmir and he will instantly assert that tourism is the mainstay of Kashmir economy. The answer is a product of systematic bombardment of disinformation by India’s occupational machinery Kashmir is a conflict zone characterized by uncertainty and continuous resistance against a military occupation. The tussle between the occupier and the native resistance is bound to give rise to situations like the armed uprising in the ‘90s or the street protests in 2008 and 2010. Such situations are a part of any resistance movement. In the wake of this reality it is foolish to invest heavily in Tourism, as people are seen doing in Kashmir. Massive infrastructure development is taking place in order to accommodate more tourists. However, tourism as an industry is heavily dependent of the socio-political factors especially in a politically volatile place like Kashmir. The whole tourist season can be thrown off track by a single act of oppression by India and the ensuing reaction. This situation was beginning to transpire after the execution of Afzal Guru but was stamped out brutally. No guarantee can be given in Kashmir about tomorrow. Therefore, in such a scenario, investing massively in tourism, and more importantly making oneself mentally dependent on it is not being prudent. But this is exactly what Indian occupying machinery wants us to do. The Indian state wants Kashmiris to grow more and more dependent on tourism. Kashmiris survived, in fact battled through the turbulent ‘90s against relentless oppression without any tourism. Why can’t we do it now? Tourism contributes only 7.93 % to the GSDP of Kashmir and provides livelihood to just about 2% of its population. In contrast, agriculture constitutes an important sector of Kashmir’s economy with 70% of the population sustaining off it directly or indirectly The bottom line is that we need not make Tourism as an essential or a principal ingredient of our economic prosperity, rather regard it as complimentary at best. Cultivating this attitude to the reality is in itself an act of resistance. Historically, tourism has never been a major source of livelihood in Kashmir, neither is it now. But somehow India is presenting it as such and we are taking the bait. Horticulture, floriculture, agriculture are some of the major industries that Kashmir economy has traditionally hinged upon. We must make a conscious effort to revive and reinvigorate them and not fall for the media manufactured political narrative surrounding it. Besides economics, tourism, in case of Kashmir also helps our occupier to Indianize Kashmir. It is a common sight on the tourist hub of boulevard to see shopkeepers and roadside vendors alike, wooing Indian tourists with a Namaste or a “bhagwan ki kasam” to assert the price of a particular product as fair. It is essentially a voluntary cultural submission for which India otherwise spends millions every year. The people associated with the tourism sector invariably develop a soft corner for the Indian tourist which is not bad as we do not harbor any malice for the Indian masses, but it then also reflects in their attitude towards the Indian occupation. The inherent dependence that tourism brings with it also tends to make people more compromising. Disturbance of the tourist season by any political development invariably makes people curse the situation and sometimes even the resistance itself. This negativity sometimes even rubs on the rest of the population. The induced dependence of Kashmir on tourism in yet another Indian occupational tactic aimed at preventing Kashmiris from becoming self-sufficient which is crucial for any resistance movement and anathema for the occupation. It is imperative that we break the stereotype image created by India about tourism in our minds. After all, the war has a measure psychological component to it at the end of the day.

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4 thoughts on “Mythbusters: Of Tourism and Occupation

  1. I am confused the author has mentioned in article only 2% rely on tourism. I may ask the author how he made a calculations @2%? And who are those 2%?

    Once I will hear from auther then I will provide my figures and percentage.

    Yakub Dunoo

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  2. What is the geographic extent or map of the region you define as Kashmir? That is important unless for you Kashmir issue does not include Jammu and Ladakh. The data will change if you take the original state of J&K as one identity and entity. What is your view on the desired future borders?

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