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Kashmir: Return of the tourists

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Sometimes, even to those most cussedly determined to relieve their grim life by buying some moments of happiness in transit, reality can shatter the paradise. In 2019, it happened in Kashmir—to thousands who were soaking in the sylvan beauty of places like Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam. The blow fell that August. A government directive first asked tourists to leave Jammu and Kashmir, citing a “terrorist threat”. In a few days, all of 25,000 tourists scrambled back to their homes on the dusty plains. On August 5 came the annulling of Article 370. What ensued was two and a half years of unrelenting gloom for the tourism industry—one of the Valley’s economic mainstays. If at all anyone entertained hopes of a pick-up in 2020, the pandemic extinguished that. Now, in the summer of 2022, tourists are thronging those slopes and verdant trails again, and locals are daring to hope for green shoots.

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