Separatists condemn TN youth’s death; fears of adverse impact grip J&K tourism

A day after a 22-year-old tourist from Tamil Nadu was killed in stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir, chief minister K Palaniswami on Tuesday spoke to his counterpart Mehbooba Mufti over the phone and sought her help for the safe return of 130 tourists from his state.

R Thirumaniselvam, a city resident, suffered head injuries after being hit by a stone when a mob went on a rampage near Narbal on the outskirts of Srinagar on Monday. Condoling Tirumaniselvam’s death, Palaniswami announced a solatium of Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin.

The chief minister said that on his direction, Tamil Nadu House officials in New Delhi had taken all steps with the help of the J&K government to bring Tirumani’s body back to the state and for the safe return of the other tourists. Tamil Nadu tourists in J&K may get in touch with officials of the TN House by calling 011-24193450, 24193100 and 24193200. 

Mufti met Tirumaniselvam’s family and said, “My head hangs in shame. It is very sad and heartbreaking.” The state government has convened an all-party meet on Wednesday to discuss the political situation in J&K.

Opposition leader Omar Abdullah lashed out at the PDP-BJP alliance and accused it of having failed to improve the security situation in the state. “We’ve killed a tourist by throwing stones at the vehicle he was travelling in. Let’s try and wrap our heads around the fact that we stoned a tourist, a guest, to death while we glorify these stone-pelters and their methods. And while I don’t support these goons, their methods or their ideology, I’m deeply, deeply sorry that this happened at all and that too in an area I’ve been proud to represent since 2014,” he said.

The Joint Resistance Forum, comprising the three main separatist groups in Kashmir, also condemned the death and said the incident had dented the image of the Valley and its tradition of welcoming guests. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the death was “completely condemnable” and not “very conducive” for tourism in the Valley. 

This is a sad incident which should not have happened. Unfortunately, we feel that it will have an impact on tourist arrivals to Kashmir. I think it will be the final nail in the coffin, said Ashfaq Siddiq, president Travel Agents Association Kashmir (TAAK).

Tourism in the state has already suffered because of prolonged periods of unrest in the Valley. The number of tourists fell from 3,91,902 in the first four months of 2016 to 1,69,727 in the same period the next year. The number in the corresponding period this year was 1,54,062. While the number of domestic tourists has halved in the last two years, the number of foreign tourists has, however, doubled. Tourism Kashmir director Mehmood Shah said, “It will have an impact. Cancellations may happen.”