Majid Jahangir, Tribune News Service. Srinagar, May 6. As you walk down the narrow, crowded lanes of Safakadal, Nowhatta, Khanyar or Rainwari of old Srinagar, picture this: old houses, crowded lanes – nothing much to write home about. Rewind to 2008: angry stone-throwers emerging from nowhere, triggering a cruel cycle of violence.
Fast-forward to a few years from now: old Srinagar landscape etched with a patina of its historical uniqueness.
A period of calm in Kashmir has had its positive spin-offs. The state government is all set to develop old houses and historical religious structures as major heritage sites.
“Those who visit Kashmir don’t want to see a concrete jungle. The old city is our heritage centre and we are working on a multi-pronged strategy to develop it as a heritage destination,” said Tourism Director Farooq Ahmad Shah. “The aim is to promote the uniqueness of the old city.”
The work has already begun and many heritage sites, which include monuments and religious places, are being renovated to attract high-end tourists. “Apart from renovating heritage sites, we are also creating basic amenities for the tourists,” Shah said.
The state government has woken up late, though. “Some European experts on a visit to the old city took keen interest in seeing the old buildings, mosques, narrow lanes and heritage sites. They advised us that the old city could be projected as a heritage destination,” said a tourism official.
The former DG of Tourism and present head of The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Saleem Beg, said a lot needs to be done. “We have to work on a number of things to attract tourists. We should not limit ourselves to only monuments’ upkeep. The stress should be on landscape, cleanliness and providing good transport,” he said.