Srinagar, July 3: Follow a proper dress code when in Kashmir or don’t come to this place — this is the fresh diktat of the separatist Jamaat-e-Islami for tourists thronging the state like never before.
The Jamaat, one of the biggest religious groups and a constituent of the hardline Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said today tourists, mostly foreigners, are “seen wandering in shorter mini-skirts and other objectionable dresses openly”.
“It is quite against the local ethos and culture and is not acceptable to the society at all,” Jamaat spokesperson Zahid Ali said in a statement.
“We need no such guests who can become a cause of derailing the society from the right track and spread immorality and immodesty in the name of tourism.”
The Jamaat warned of an angry reaction from the people if the state’s tourism department did not urge tourists to honour the local ethos. “It is the duty of the tourism department (to do so),” the spokesperson said.
Separatist groups have in the past issued diktats to local women to observe a dress code and have even used force to enforce them. But tourists, who have contributed significantly to the local economy in recent years and in the past, have rarely been asked to do so.
Today’s statement has no directive for Kashmiri women, many of whom do not observe purdah.
The Jamaat diktat has come as Kashmir is witnessing a tourist boom for the third consecutive year. Official sources said over six lakh tourists had visited Kashmir so far this year, against 13 lakh in 2011. The summer agitation from 2008-10 had nearly crippled the inflow.
The Jamaat spokesperson said Kashmiris could not “compromise” on “morality and obligatory customs and endanger” future generations for “simple monetary benefits”.
“The Kashmiris cannot, for the sake of their economy, give up their divine values at any cost.”
The hardline separatist group claimed “anti-Islamic forces are working tirelessly to deviate Kashmiri Muslims from their religious ethos”.
“(As such we) impress upon the tourism department authorities not to encourage this cultural aggression against Kashmiri Muslims and remain vigilant against those elements who in the garb of promoting tourism are in fact promoting vulgarity, alcoholism, drug-trafficking and other immoral activities,” the spokesperson said.
The state government has, however, remained silent on the diktats. Minister of state for tourism Nasir Sogami said he had “no comments to offer”, possibly to avoid confrontation with the separatists.
Yesterday, the state tourism department came under criticism from Geelani, who claimed it was sending its director to Israel to bring the intelligence agency, Mossad, to Kashmir. The director is heading for Tel Aviv to woo tourists.
Geelani said New Delhi was planning to create Israel-type settlements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir in the garb of implementing a “return-and-rehabilitation policy for them”.