The much hyped “Kashmir Fort Festival” by Department of Tourism Kashmir atop Koh-i-Maran hillock draws flak from visitors, citing intense security bandobast.
The Koh-i-Maran Fort in Shar-e-Khaas was occupied by forces in 1990 after militancy started in Kashmir. Subsequently, the history and artefacts it contained were closed for visitors.
“I had heard stories about fort’s grandeur and magnificence from my parents,” said Sheikh Adnan, a student from old Srinagar. He said presence of troops and depleted condition of the Fort irked him.
Ajay Aggarwal, a tourist from Delhi said, “Idea is raw and it needs serious revamp.” Ajay said it feels absurd to call this tourist spot amid “garrison”.
He also contested claims of Tourism Department of launching full Tourism campaign in mainland India. “People hardly know about places to visit in Srinagar.”
A group of boys, who hail from Ladakh, felt let down after visiting the fort. “They (tourism department) misinform people about the fort. Only a part of it has been thrown open for the public,” said Mustafa, who was on his maiden visit to Kashmir.
“It is disgusting when a tourist comes to see a historical place and he is shown only a part of it,” said Mustafa. He added unlike Kashmir, in Ladakh historical places (monasteries) are freely accessible.
The festival is part of J&K tourism department’s efforts to lure tourists to the valley. “But most of the visitors at the fort walk out with bad memories,” says Mustafa. “It feels as if you have stepped inside a garrison,” says Ali Saiffuddin, a local visitor.
The part of the festival is ‘Sufiyana’ musical performance organised by the tourism department. “We are trying to revive Kashmiri heritage and culture,” said Mehmood Shah, Director Tourism J&K.
When asked about the presence of troops inside the fort, Shah said, “It doesn’t come under our prerogative”. He said Tourism Department’s job is to highlight heritage and rest comes under the domain of Archaeology Department.