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Updated: June 4, 2011 02:31 IST

Geelani wants tourists treated as honoured guests

Shujaat Bukhari
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A file photo of Syed Ali Geelani.
A file photo of Syed Ali Geelani.

Appeals to shopkeepers and others not to betray tourists' faith

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani on Friday asked traders associated with tourism to treat tourists as “honoured guests” and not cheat them. He also released a pamphlet for them in three languages, including Hindi.

“I want to make it clear that tourists coming to Kashmir are our guests and we welcome and respect them,” Mr Geelani told journalists at his residence. His statement comes a few days after Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik sent out a similar message.

The statement is significant in view of the unrest in 2010 that gave a severe jolt to Kashmir's economy, particularly tourism.

Mr. Geelani was not allowed to offer Friday prayers and was put under house arrest.

“Besides being our respected guests, these tourists, whether from India or from any other country, are our brothers. So I appeal to all Kashmiris, particularly the people associated with tourism, to treat them with utmost respect”, he said. “Like the soul, one's faith departs. It never comes back. So, I appeal to shopkeepers and other people not to betray the faith of tourists. They should sell original Kashmiri handicrafts and other items to these arriving tourists.”

At the same time, he expected tourists to act as ambassadors of Kashmir once they returned home. “By being our ambassadors, these tourists should understand the pain and the sufferings of Kashmiris, which may not be visible to them when they arrive. So I expect the tourists, particularly the ones from different States of India, will help spread the message that Kashmiris are not terrorists… that Kashmiris are a peace loving and hospitable people.”

The Kashmir problem could only be resolved by “granting the right of self determination” to the State people. “I want to add that interlocutors or other groups visiting Kashmir these days are just a ploy on the part of India to delay a solution to the 63-year-old festering dispute.”

“Kashmiris are peace-loving people. More than anyone else, it is we, Kashmiris, who want peace in the region. But the government will not let it prevail. Since my arrival in the Valley on March 4, I have been allowed to offer Friday prayers only thrice. For the rest of the time, I was under house arrest. Even today, I am being held under house arrest,” Mr. Geelani said.

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