Kashmiris protest against the killing of Amarnath pilgrims.
Text and photographs: Umar Ganie.
Kashmir civil society groups on Tuesday, July 11, held several protests in Sringar to condemn the killing of seven pilgrims in Anantnag, south Kashmir on Monday, July 10, night.
Students, lawyers, doctors and journalists participated in one protest, holding placards which read: 'Kashmiris condemn the killing of Yatris', 'All lives are valuable'.
Separatist leaders, who usually support the terrorists' attacks on the security forces, also condemned the killing, saying the incident 'goes against the Kashmiri ethos'.
In a joint statement, Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik expressed grief over the killing of the pilgrims.
'The Amarnath Yatra has been going on peacefully for centuries and is part of the yearly rhythm and will remain so,' the statement said.
'Our hearts go out to the families of the bereaved and we express our heartfelt condolences,' Geelani, the Mirwaiz and Malik said.
Members of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce took out a silent march from Polo View to Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
The businessmen condemned the 'barbaric' attack and demanded a Supreme Court judge monitored probe into the attack.
Travel agencies, hotels and allied tourism agencies have called a bandh on Wednesday, July 12.
Representatives from the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association Federation, Houseboat Owners Association and transport associations providing transport facilities to tourists and pilgrims protested against the killings at Lal Chowk.
"It is a cowardly act. We condemn it in the strongest words. The attack will have a great impact on our trade," Farooq Kathu, general secretary, Travel Agents Society of Kashmir, told Rediff.com
Travel agents in Srinagar, Katha said, had received continuous calls from tour operators in other states, inquiring if it was safe for tourists to visit the Kashmir valley.
"We told them to come," Katha said, adding, "It is an unfortunate event, but we will take care of them (the tourists)."
"The attack will bring a bad name to Kashmir," Faiz Bakshi, general secretary, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said. "Whoever has done it, they should be punished."
"It (business) had picked up for one or two months," Yaseen Khan, chairman, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, said.
"We were hoping that business would pick up after the yatra," Khan added, "but the attack has cast a shadow on our hopes."
"Tourism is already on the backfoot," Farooq Ahmad Dar, co-chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, felt. "Now the chances of revival are dark."
Abdul Majeed, president, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, said the terror attack on the pilgrims would shatter the local economy.
"It is a matter of our bread and butter," he said, adding, "On the day of attack, a group of ten tourists left my hotel because of fear. They were supposed to stay a few more days."
"Kashmiris have always welcomed the yatris even in tough times," Mohammad Ibrahim Shah, president, Travel Agents Association, said, puzzled about the timing of the attack.