Houseboat industry to soon become relic of past due to govt ban on building, repairing in IIOJK

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Srinagar: Houseboat industry, also an essential component of cultural legacy of Kashmiri people in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, is in danger of being made extinct as a result of the Indian government’s ban on building a new houseboat or repairing an old one.

According to Kashmir Media Service, through the India’s plaint judiciary, the complete ban on building of houseboats has led to survival of only a few master artisans, today, all of them elderly. The ban belies the Modi government’s tall claim of turning the occupied territory into a tourism hub, while the fact is that the houseboat industry, which is a major tourist attraction in the Kashmir valley, is rapidly declining as a result of the government ban on building new houseboats.

On the pretext of an old order passed by the High Court of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the Modi government has totally banned the registration of new houseboats. As a result, the number of houseboats has reduced from 3,500 in the valley Kashmir to just 750, today, in the past few years.

Many houseboat owners and talented artisans are left trying to make ends meet as a result of the industry’s downturn. With forty-five years of expertise, houseboat owner Ajaz Ahmed bemoans the situation, saying, “It’s unfortunate that we are seeing the slow death of a tradition that has been around for centuries.” The ban is seen by experts on Kashmir as a deliberate attempt by the Hindutva-inspired Indian government to deprive Kashmiris of their tradition, economy and culture.

Houseboat owner Abdul Khaliq Guroo, 60, fed his family from his houseboat’s earnings. That day, however, Guru’s lifetime savings drowned within seconds in the river Jehlum. A family of six, including two children, miraculously managed to escape, as the houseboat overturned in the river close to the Convent School in Rajbagh, Srinagar. The houseboat overturned as a result of the Jehlum’s increasing water level.

“It is property worth crores which is right now in the water, decaying second by second in front of my eyes. I can neither construct any boat because of the government’s ban, nor will my loss of crores be compensated by the government,” said Khaliq.

In the harshest winter, Khaliq has set up a temporary tent on the riverbank, where he has been awaiting public compensation for his loss for the last three months. “Several houseboats in Kashmir have drowned in the Jehlum in the last few years,” he said.

“In coming years, Kashmir won’t see this tradition of houseboats,” Manzoor Pakhtoon, president of the House Boat Owners Association, said adding that there were about 2,000 houseboats operating in the Dal and Nigeen lakes and the Jhelum river as recently as the 1980s, but there are only 750 houseboats in these water bodies today.

He expressed grave alarm about the rapidly disappearing houseboats, formerly referred to as the “Crown of Kashmir.” Houseboats are essential to Kashmiri tourism, said Pakhtoon, but “the High Court has imposed a complete ban on the building of houseboats.”

When Mark Twain Vanished Into The Bombay Blue Depending on the rooms and amenities, the cost of a houseboat might vary from Rs 1 to Rs 2 crore. “We don’t know how we will arrange for such an amount, but it will take Rs 2 to 3 lakh simply to repair the houseboat,” said Guroo’s wife, who now lives with him in a tent. She has made several appeals to the administration for compensation, but nothing was given to her.

The floating residences known as Kashmiri houseboats are moored across the shores of the Jhelum, Dal, and Nigeen. The houseboats that are now hotels and homestays were meticulously built years ago.

In the name of legal guardian of Dal Lake, the IIOJK High Court at the behest of the Indian government outlawed all types of construction in the the lake in 2010, including the installation of new houseboats.

If the government ban continues, however, all the remaining houseboats will soon vanish, said Pakhtoon. Another houseboat owner, Farooq Ahmed Nagoo, 45, lost both his houseboats in separate sinking incidents within two years. “One of my houseboats was for tourism purposes. My livelihood was dependent on houseboats,” he said. “My family currently lives in a temporary shed.”

Houseboat owners contradicted the government’s claim about pollution excuse saying may contribute less than 2% of the pollution in Dal Lake, while the other 98% is the result of the ignorance of the government, as it has not made a mechanism for hotels around the lake whose drains dump into the lake.

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Disclaimer: Houseboat industry to soon become relic of past due to govt ban on building, repairing in IIOJK - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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