The word ‘Kashmir’ is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning Land of Kashyap. Rishi Kashyap was one of the Saptarishis who was a Saraswat Brahmin and formalized the ancient Historical Vedic Religion. His descendants or the Kashmiri Pandits as they are commonly known named the valley in his honor.
Kashmir falls in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. The geographical denotions of Kashmir include the valleys between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Mountain range, until the mid -19th century.
At present, it also includes the larger area of Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir comprising of the three divisions of Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Kashmir shares its borders with Pakistan as well as China. Kashmir region has been a center of Hinduism, Buddhism followed by Kashmir Shaivism. Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir in 1349 inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir.
Muslim monarchs continued to rule Kashmir over next five centuries. Mughals ruled from the period of 1526 until 1751, after which Afghans ruled forming the Durrani Empire from 1747 until 1820. Thereafter the Sikhs, under the leadership of Ranjit Singh captured Kashmir. The Dogras became the rulers under Gulab Singh after signing the ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ through which they purchased the region from British rule in 1846.
Dogra rule continued until India got its independence from British rule after which it became a disputed territory. Kashmir now falls into the administration of three countries: Pakistan, India and People’s Republic of China.
The upsurge of militancy and political movements has impacted the economy of the state greatly. The crown of India as it is popularly known for its beauty and the geographical location with respect to the country’s other states has been a victim of terrorism.
All sectors of the economy, of which agriculture is the pre-dominant have been affected by the frequent turbulences and failed to provide food and life security to the population of the valley.
Tourism revenue has been lost to extent of billions of dollars owing to dormant industry and large scale displacement of Pandits, Sikhs and Muslims due to frequent riots have resulted in enormous suffering of human resources. Significant migration from the valley has happened due to lack of opportunities and overall dismal scenario. Educated youth from the valley moved to other parts of the country is search of better job and work opportunities.
There was considerable tourist movement in the state until mid-eighties. In 1988, nearly 7 lakh tourists visited the valley. The tourism industry was given a special status as it was a means to livelihood to many and also a source of revenue for the government.
A separate budget was allocated to the development and beautification of the resorts before the advent of militancy in the state. But this had to be curtailed to counter terrorist activities and the well maintained gardens turned into bushes. Timber smugglers and other people involved in illegal and deceitful acts also caused reckless destruction of the resorts. Land encroachment became a phenomenon due to the state of disorder that prevailed. The land turned into a frenzy of war and conflict with valley reverberating with gun shots. The life of the people was limited to a barricaded world where outsiders feared to enter risking their lives.
The Dal Lake which had clear and pristine water once became a storehouse of cow dung and sewage around its periphery. Even Mansbal was illegally encroached with vegetable gardens, toilets, residential structure, and garbage dumping sites etc. resulting in the pollution of its surroundings. Its water floated garbage including Wrappers, plastic bags, rags, vegetables peelings, empty cigarette cases etc. affecting the look and scenic beauty of the lake.
Businesses failed and hotel owners lost the interest in improving the infrastructure deteriorating their properties as they were hardly able to earn any income of out it. Development and improvement were too far from their reach. Almost 1094 houseboats in Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake and River Jhelum were rendered idle and people employed in their operations were left jobless.
Around 2000 “Shikarawallas” met an equally ill fate with occupancy rates going considerably low. Even industries like horticulture, handicraft besides tourism and agriculture were equally affected adversely.
The decades of turmoil also hampered the peace and stability even which was not possible to achieve without meeting the basic needs of people in the absence of economic growth. The state is still far behind other states in economic growth at national level. Huge impact on public and private properties resulted from conflicts and insurgencies that prevailed.
It was only around 2002, that the children in the valley started growing without hearing the sounds of bullets and rocket launchers. Intensified patrolling along the borders and improved efforts of police and security forces slowed down the infiltration. It can be said that Kashmir is finally seeing a day of hope and peace. A tremendous influx of tourist flocking the beautiful valleys and mountains of Kashmir is reported.
Nearly 5 lakh tourists visited the valley in 2011 with an estimated 9 lakh expected to visit by September 2012. Indian tourists cheered the year when they could finally take a peaceful Shikara ride across the Dal Lake or venture to stride out in the deep dense forests of pine and deodar.
Waning terrorism in Kashmir has adversely affected the tourism in states of Himachal Pradesh with declining number of summer tourists who preferred visiting Kashmir. With the wheels of time turning in its favor, the economic progress has also started showing in Kashmir.
Bollywood which targeted Kashmir for framing its majestic valleys in 80’s and early 90’s but had to recede because of terrorism is beginning to structure more and more movies in the metamorphosing land of Kashmir.
The hopes must be kept high that no dismal years of economic, political, social and developmental stagnation revisit the valley to set back the clock for the progressive people and prospering state of Kashmir. If peace prevails, much of what has been lost can be regained and revived.