Maharashtra, Karnataka Governments Say They Will Invest in Tourism in J&K

A team has been put in place to scout for resort locations in Kashmir and Leh, Maharashtra tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal told The Wire.

Mumbai: Even as Kashmir continues to grapple with restrictions and a communication blockade for 30 straight days following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday announced that it would soon be setting up a tourist resort each in Kashmir and Ladakh.

Talking to The Wire, tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal said that a committee of experts from the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) will soon be travelling to the Valley and Leh in Ladakh and finalising the plan. “At the moment, we have only allocated Rs 1 crore each for this project. The team will be scouting in the region and identifying the land. This entire process should take at least a year or two,” Rawal said.

Since MTDC is a corporation, this decision, Rawal said, does not need cabinet approval. With this announcement, Maharashtra becomes the first state to exploit the chance of buying land in Kashmir, which became possible after the Indian government on August 5 decided to read down crucial provisions of Article 370 of the constitution. It also bifurcated the state into two union territories – J&K and Ladakh.

Rawal said that the state will be approaching J&K governor Satya Pal Malik to discuss further legal aspects of this decision.

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The BJP-led state government has touted this move as one of its “biggest achievements” and thinks that setting up a tourist resort in the Valley will help boost tourism and relations with the locals. “Several Maharashtrian tourists travel to Kashmir and Ladhak. We are trying to find a strategically located place both in Leh and near Srinagar for our local tourists. In Leh, the idea is to promote mountaineering and in Srinagar, the resort would cater to those visiting Amarnath and Vaishno Devi temple,” Rawal claimed.

Claiming that this move was taken in the interest of the local population, Rawal told The Wire that both resorts will only recruit locals and “this will be a great opportunity to generate employment in for the Kashmiri youths”. “With this decision, Maharashtra has become the first state to decide on purchasing land in Kashmir and also the first one to generate employment for the locals,” he said.

Soon after Rawal made this announcement, Karnataka tourism minister C.T. Ravi posted on his Twitter account that his state too was thinking about entering the tourism industry in J&K.

After home minister Amit Shah had announced the decision of reading down Article 370 in parliament on August 5, several messages had begun circulating on social media urging people to claim their “piece of Kashmir”. Social media was also full of misogynistic slurs against Kashmiri women, with people claiming that the government’s decision would now allow them to both buy Kashmiri land and marry women from the Valley.

Note: This article was originally published on September 3 and updated with the Karnataka minister’s comment on September 4 at 10:30 am.