PM Modi is right. But not just stones even pellet guns are harmful for J&K tourism!

Why the choice between terrorism and tourism? Terrorism is not a choice. Terrorism was a never a choice

Amid a deadly revival of militancy and escalation of violence in the restive region of Kashmir, the separatists finally have some expectations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The united Hurriyat, which otherwise called for a Valley-wide bandh on April 2, in connection with Modi’s visit to J&K, for the inauguration of Chenani–Nashri tunnel wants the PM to act as a statesman.

The united Hurriyat in a statement said: “Construction of roads or inauguration of tunnels is of lesser importance; however, it is hard to come to the expectations and accept hard realities. Kashmir is a serious and sensitive political issue . . . . Extraordinary and exemplary courage is needed to resolve it. PM Narendra Modi should take brave steps and act as a statesman.”

The Hurriyat issued the statement after Modi in his address to people said that the “misguided” youth of Kashmir should choose tourism over “terrorism” to ensure the state’s development and well-being.

“I want to tell the misguided youth of Kashmir valley, realise the power of a stone. On one hand, there is some misguided youth who pelt stones, on the other hand, there is youth from the same Kashmir who carves stones to build infrastructure. I want to tell the Kashmiri youth, there are two paths in front of you which can determine your future – one is tourism, the other is terrorism,” the PM addressed.

If criticism has to be for the sake of it, Modi is already being trolled for having given options of terrorism and tourism to Kashmir youth. Many trollers say his statement will only instigate the youth further towards militancy.

But then, should we expect Prime Minister of fast-emerging superpower to say that Kashmiri youth should continue to pick up guns or stones, as his Army which is one of the largest in the world is adequately equipped enough to muzzle such voices when AFSPA is already in place.

A nuclear power with Army of over 3.5 million soldiers and another huge number of over 1.5 million jawans in the para-military is obvious to have military supremacy in the subcontinent. India has already proved it by smoking out Pakistani Army from Kargil, there and then.

Comparing seven million Kashmiris with billions of potential Indian firearms will always be an irrational mathematical calculation. If people of Kashmir are dying, what has India to lose? The point is not to discuss the military warfare but the benefits of avoiding a war-like situation because it is Kashmir which is at the receiving end.

If New Delhi wants Kashmiri youth to choose development over guns, the idea is worth exploring. No doubts that Kashmir dispute awaits resolution, but should developmental activities be subject to a final resolution? Should Kashmir and its economy be a replica of war-torn Tora Bora region of Afghanistan till then?

In the modern world, no sane voice ignores the importance of development, not even Kashmiri separatists. Though Hurriyat said inauguration of the Nashri tunnel is of “lesser importance,” it too couldn’t afford to ignore ‘importance’.

Amid growing unemployment in Kashmir, youth have limited resources to earn a livelihood. While the government is unable to offer adequate jobs, there’s equally no big corporate sector that could absorb the unemployed. Given the logical constraints, tourism can offer the ideal opportunities of economic prosperity for the Valley blessed with natural beauty.

But tourism is subject to normalcy.  While Modi’s offer between tourism and terrorism should serve as a food for thought, youth and separatists need to weigh the pros and cons of the two options, where one can give life and the other has the potential to take it.

The Central Government equally needs to reconsider its take on encounters because as of now gunfights are putting Kashmir in a cycle of unending violence and bloodshed where every funeral glamorizes militancy further.

A breath of peace is needed for tourism to revive, where both guns and stones must go silent. Call it fate or coincidence stones have long been linked to freedom. Michelangelo once said: I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free!