Alcohol Free Kashmir!

Kashmir is a teetotaler society. There are religious and socio-cultural reasons which make Kashmir an eminently alcohol free society. Given these reasons, the decision, which has apparently been put on hold for now, to allow sale of alcohol on the airport premises, which incidentally, is named after the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh ul Alam(RA), jars against the sensibilities, sensitivities and religio-cultural ethos of Kashmir. The reason proffered by the administration is that this was done to “promote” and “encourage” tourism in Kashmir. This is as facile , facetious and hollow a reason. Tourism in Kashmir, a veritable industry, in its own right, cannot be contingent or dependent on allowing things that religion and society in Kashmir proscribed and prohibits. Tourism here is defined by “brand pull”- that is, Kashmir is a brand in itself and the brand association with the region calls to mind pristine beauty, lush green meadows, rivers and rivulets, lakes and alpine beauty. It is these factors that make Kashmir Kashmir. If anyone visiting Kashmir finds these inadequate to pique his/her interest and bring out finer sensibilities, then he/she is welcome to visit elsewhere. Moreover, in this day and age, respect for sensibilities and sensitivities of people of tourist locales, has become associated with sustainable tourism. It may be recalled that educated Westerners who visit non Western cultures and locales, go to the extent of going “native” by wearing the attire of the people of these places. This is due to respect for local cultures and sensibilities. If, however, there are people for who , alcohol is a need to complement their tourist experience, there are other places than Kashmir to visit. All in all, it is prudent that Kashmir maintains its religio-cultural ethos and, in fact, this very factor could be a pull for a certain tourist segment. Hedonism and its variants cannot and must be features that make Kashmir an attractive destination. Kashmir, to the contrary, has much to offer by way of its religio-cultural and even social heritage and legacy. It is these attributes of Kashmir that must be promoted than vulgar and crass stuff like provision of alcohol here. Broadly speaking, it is the implied ban on alcohol in Kashmir that appears to have prevented vice and even crime in Kashmir. We want and need a Kashmir that is pristine, pure and unsullied by these hedonistic vices, in all domains. And, our approach to tourism must reflect this!