Govt plans to promote heritage by turning havelis into hotels

SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir government is seeking to revive the grandeur of the state’s age-old heritage by turning palaces and havelis into hotels, cafes, museums and other cultural assets.
A Government spokesman said that Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayed on Sunday constituted a high-level Committee in the tourism and culture departments, which will hold consultations with the Rajasthan-based Indian Heritage Hotels Association (IHHA) to convert state’s built-in heritage into productive assets.
Mufti said Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in the country, which was a premier tourist destination even before the partition in 1947.
“Our state is a goldmine of heritage assets and the government will take all steps to showcase them by maintaining the regal essence of its glorious past,” Mufti said over a luncheon meeting with delegates of IHHA, including its President, Maharaja Gajsinghji of Jodhpur, here this afternoon.
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, MLCs, Ajat Shatru Singh and Vikramaditya Singh, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, MD JKTDC and Director Tourism Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad Shah, Member, National Monuments Authority, Union Ministry of Culture, Saleem Beg and representatives from hotel industry, tour and travel operators and houseboat owners were also present on the occasion.
Mufti said reviving the state’s heritage assets and showcasing them as centre-pieces of our culture will save these properties from decay. He tasked the committee to interact with IHHA in shaping J&K’s Heritage Tourism Framework so that we are able to promote our treasure of built-in heritage as well as rich repository in art, culture, handicraft, cuisine and music.
In earlier meetings chaired on promotion of heritage, the Chief Minister had issued directions to the Tourism Department to restore major heritage monuments and integrate them as destination points into Valley’s Tourism Circuit. The state is closely working with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in mapping state’s heritage properties.
Laying stress on involving local stakeholders in reviving their old villas as heritage cottages, cafes, museums and cultural centres so that they become productive assets, the Chief Minister described houseboats, handicraft and cuisines as part of its rich heritage. “In the past, cultural tourism and handicraft sectors, being prime attraction for visitors, were the main sources of income for the people of the state,” he said while referring to the steps government was taking to resurrect these vital sectors which received major setback during the years of turbulence.
Asking the tourism department to take a leaf out of Rajasthan’s initiatives, which has seen them convert grandeur of its palaces, castles and forts into prime objects of heritage sightseeing, Mufti said the state needs to similarly project its shrines and pilgrim destinations on a much larger canvas. “I was at Ajmer Sharief recently and I saw a number of devotees from my state there in large numbers paying obeisance at the holy shrine,” he added.
Describing various cultures of the state as its greatest binding force, the Chief Minister said J&K is safe because of its multiculturalism and rich hospitality. “We have won hearts of the people because of the love and affection we have showered upon them,” he stated.
The Chief Minister also highlighted the rich influence of Central Asian countries on the state’s handicraft and cuisines and complimented the people for sustaining the rare arts for such a long time.