Govt, BJP Speak In Different Voices Over Hurriyat’s Tourist Offer

New Delhi: The Modi government and BJP were Wednesday speaking in conflicting voices on separatist Hurriyat Conference's invitation to tourists and pilgrims to visit the Kashmir Valley, with the former hailing the "initiative" and latter dismissing it as "absolute hypocrisy".

Minister of State for Tourism Mahesh Sharma welcomed the "initiative".

"My big salute goes to all those who support tourism, and yes, we are for it. The vision of our great Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is to see that the Valley comes back again. We are all prepared to see and ensure that the tourism industry in the Valley flourishes and for that any steps need to be taken, we will come a step forward.

"Tourism will change the shape of the Valley and will bring the glory back...As a Tourism Minister I welcome their initiative and of course other calls will be taken by the Government of India," Sharma told reporters here.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said everyone should promote tourism as Jammu and Kashmir has been "very, very important" for the sector.

"If there is peace in the Valley, tourism will flourish there and if tourism increases, it will economically benefit the state and its people. Promotional tourism is absolutely necessary to revive the economy because it is very important part of their social life," Rijiju said.

Two factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF, which have been spearheading the five-month-long unrest in Kashmir that has thrown life into complete disarray, had in a surprise joint statement last night invited tourists and pilgrims to visit the Valley to enjoy the traditional hospitality of its people while promising them safety.

However, BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav expressed doubts over the separatists' intentions, saying he felt it was a "spelling mistake".

"I consider it a spelling mistake. They wanted to say terrorists but ended up saying tourists. They only welcome terrorists and no one believed such statements coming from their side.

"If they want peace in the Valley, they should stop 'Calender-Baaji' (the weekly calendar released by separatists containing agitational programmes during the strike). They should stop terror if they want tourists. On one hand, you instigate terrorists, close down schools, markets and paste calenders and on other you stage such a drama. I think it was a spelling mistake," he said.

Madhav termed it as "absolute hypocrisy" on part of the Hurriyat leadership. "If they want tourists, they should first ensure peace absence of which is the biggest hurdle in bringing back and normalcy in the state," he said.

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