In Depth

Amid ‘trying times’, Kashmiris open their hearts, homes, hotels for stranded tourists

Lately as war frenzy left many tourists stranded in the valley, Kashmiris responded by opening their homes and hotels for ‘guests’. The gesture coming in the backdrop of hate attacks on Kashmiris once again re-posited faith in humanity during ‘dehumanised times’.

On Wednesday, February 27, when an Indian pilot landed in Pakistan custody, the alarm was sounded across airports—with some reports suggesting that the air services have been shut for three months. The warlike announcement unnerved many roaming tourists in the valley. By the end of the day, however, Kashmiris came to the rescue of the anxious guests.

It began when Srinagar-based hoteliers circulated a message asking the tourists to stay at their hotels after the airports were momentarily shut down.

“Hotel Kaiser is offering free accommodation and food for every tourist who is stuck in Srinagar in the present situation. Tourists from any state can come and stay with us for free until the situation gets back to normal… We are with you,” reads a message circulated by the owner of the hotel located in Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar.

Soon, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club Mushtaq Chaya and Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHARA) reportedly asked all the stranded tourists to stay in their hotels for free during the “trying times”.

“Around 25 people came reading my post,” Kaiser Ahmad, owner of Hotel Kaiser said. “After airports were reopened, they left.”

It was nothing new, the hotelier continues.

“We did the same thing during the floods. Around 80 people were staying with us. We did whatever we could. After 5 days, some of them left. I still have the luggage of some people in the storeroom,” he says.

After Kaiser’s post, many Kashmiris followed suit—offering their homes for the “trapped and tense guests”.

“One of the things we Kashmiris have learned over the period of time is to strictly uphold humanity,” says Mudasir Mir, a cloth merchant from Srinagar, who offered his home stay to many Indian tourists. “None of us want to take mileage out of it. This is what our religion teaches us.”

Sikhs who recently came to the rescue and relief of many Kashmiri students across India once again demonstrated their Samaritan nature.

The Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee Srinagar also offered free accommodation to the stranded passengers in the valley.

But this is not only about tourists.

Many videos, shot when Kashmiris studying and working outside were attacked, show young men in the valley helping stranded Indian armed forces and non-locals.

“These young men helped them despite the fact the same armed forces unleash mayhem on all of us,” says Ruhi Jaan, a homemaker from Srinagar.

ALSO READ: Khalsa Aid for Kashmir: ‘We just took one single step to restore faith in humanity’

A non-local journalist Afaan, currently working in Kashmir, shares a recent anecdote.

A man at a tea-stall had casually asked him if he’s not scared to live in Kashmir when Kashmiris are being harassed across India.

“Hearing this, all other Kashmiris present there got up and grilled the man for asking me such a question. They told me that they’re there if I need anything,” Afaan says. “I feel embarrassed as an Indian getting this love in Kashmir, despite all that is happening to them outside the state.”

No one can match Kashmiris when it comes to deal with crisis situation, believes senior college lecturer, Mushtaq Ali who often expresses his views on social media about the politics of the place.

“We Kashmiris have been facing active and ruthless crisis situation in our backyard since 30 years now. So, we understand how it feels,” Ali says.

And even as Kashmiris have become soft targets in and outside the valley, a grandmotherly figure Zainab believes “no Kashmiri wishes harm to any Indian”.

“Forget today, we Kashmiris would often offer tea or lunch to Indian Armed forces during crackdowns during 90s,” says Zainab, a resident of Batamaloo.

“The irony of the times was that they would come to our homes to arrest our sons. In fact, nothing would remain private for us during such raids. And yet, we would care about them being tired. We would offer them refreshment, thinking they’re on duty and must be tired.”

But now, she continues, Kashmiris are even worried to send their children outside to study.

“I believe, good people do suffer for upholding their humanity,” Zainab says. “But like everything else, even suffering comes to an end one day.”


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