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Gurez removes tag of death, destruction; becomes much-loved tourist destination in Kashmir

 Gurez removes tag of death, destruction; becomes much-loved tourist destination in Kashmir

Post ceasefire pact, Valley goes through massive developmental transformation; presents enchanting look to every visitor

Sajid Raina

Gurez, Aug 29 (KNO): Formerly recognized for its history of death and destruction due to cross-LoC shelling and frequent clashes between militants and soldiers, the enchanting Gurez Valley in North Kashmir district has transformed into a much-loved tourist hotspot, garnering attention from both domestic and international travellers, the valley has surged in popularity, poised to compete with Kashmir's other renowned destinations.

Tucked within the Himalayas and enveloped by verdant forests, the Gurez Valley lies along the historic Silk Route, linking Kashmir with Gilgit. The local populace converses in the Shina language and predominantly resides in traditional wooden homes, which are gradually giving way to modern concrete dwellings.

"After the February 15 border ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan, Gurez Valley has witnessed a surge in tourism, resulting in the emergence of new hotels, home stays, and campsites," the locals told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO). "We are opening our homes to visitors, offering a glimpse into Gurez Valley's culture."

"With the situation continuing in this manner, we envision a promising future ahead for our children," the locals added.

"Just a few years ago, we would switch off our lights and retire early due to the fear of shelling. But now, those circumstances have entirely changed. Our young people are now participating in night camping alongside tourists without any fear," said Mushaq Ahmad, a local resident.

The memory of yearning for tourists to explore this breath-taking valley and transform it into a bustling tourist hub remains fresh. And now, these are the very days we've been waiting for, he said, adding that those days when people here used to spend days in construction of community bankers to save their lives from border shelling are gone now.

"Not too long ago, we hesitated to welcome any tourists here. The prevalent notion was that border shelling could occur unexpectedly, posing a threat to life," said Abdul Salaam, another local resident.

"Since the cessation of border shelling, our area has experienced a surge in development. We've collectively breathed a sigh of relief as our children pursue their education, schools thrive, and local businesses flourish," he added.

"Speaking of network connectivity, there was once a dearth of phone service in our region. However, if you observe every village in Gurez, you'll find functional phone service and reliable internet connectivity," Salam noted.

"Half a decade ago, the road from Bandipora to Gurez was in a state of disrepair. However, today it receives regular attention from Beacon, with repairs carried out as needed on a monthly basis," highlighted Altaf Ahmad, another resident of the area.

He remarked that the tourism sector now engages hundreds of youths as tourist guides, tent owners, homestay proprietors, and in various other capacities, allowing them to earn their livelihood through tourism-related activities.

The valley is nearing a permanent solution to its long-standing power challenges. Progress in a power project brings hope, with construction achievements and substantial advancements in critical infrastructure. While challenges posed by geography affect timelines, completion of the ongoing project valued at 2676.92 lacs promises continuous electricity supply for Gurez, eliminating the need for high-capacity diesel generators that presently provide timed power supply.

"We're delighted that continuous electricity is on the horizon as the government is swiftly addressing the issue," Ahmad added

"Anticipating a significant tourism surge, we might witness the reopening of the traditional Gurez-Kargil road through Kaobal Gali," he added, referring to the route that links the twin villages of Chakwali and Abdullan in the Tulail region of Gurez to Mushko Valley in Drass, Kargil via Kabul Gali. This road had remained closed for decades due to security concerns.

An official, however, highlighted that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been actively engaged in road repair efforts to ensure its swift restoration and eventual accessibility, indicating a likely opening in the near future.

On Monday, Shinon Meeras, a centre to highlight the Dard-Shina tribes that were once recorded in the chronicles of ancient Greeks and Romans for expanding their rule into Afghanistan and Tibet, was thrown open at the Gurez Valley.

The inaugural cultural center exclusively dedicated to the 38,000-strong Dard community, which speaks the Shina language that is rapidly diminishing, has been meticulously curated and established through collaborative efforts between the Indian Army and the administration.

"India's inaugural Dardi museum chronicles the evolution of Shina culture, language, and the unique Gurezi way of life. It pays homage to the significant role of the Dard-Shin community in shaping the nation," Sinha has conveyed, emphasizing that the Shinon Meeras will emerge as a captivating focal point for travellers exploring this remarkable "off-beat gem of India."

The official reiterated the LG's statement, affirming that the tourism sector has experienced a substantial surge, soaring from a previous annual count of 700-800 tourists to 35,000 visitors recorded until August 15 this year.

He further highlighted that the government is actively gearing up for the upcoming tourism festival, an annual event aimed at showcasing the region as a premier offbeat tourism destination. "Every possible endeavour is being made to propel the valley's promotion, and within a few years, it will secure its place on the global tourism map," he added—(KNO)

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