Srinagar: The largest open market of Kashmir, the Sunday market in Srinagar, has seen a vast decrease in recent years in the numbers of both tourists and locals.
Sunday market is one of those places which tourists never fail to visit in Srinagar. The vendors unanimously agree that there has been a steady drop in the number of tourists over the past decade. The same has happened with local customers, they say, even as the number of vendors has risen to about 1400.
One of the food vendors, Ahamdir, lays the blame on the current situation of Kashmir. “The local crowd has reduced because of the prevailing condition here. When there is no money then what will people spend? The government servants receive no pension now; demonetisation has done more bad than good; so the crowd will, without doubt, ebb away. Even a labourer doesn’t receive his wages on time, and the strikes and bandhs that take place three days every week… When demonetisation happened, the market went down. Nobody wanted to spend money from his pocket. When the money stops coming in, there is no spending,” Ahamdir said.
The present condition of Kashmir is too unpleasant, Ahamdir said, adding that he feels in a few years the locals wouldn’t have anything to eat. “Militancy is increasing, the footfall of tourists is fading away, and wages have reduced. What else do we expect our future to be but a disaster? Decades back, when tourists used to come in large numbers, about 50,000 people had work, and now all that employment has gone down.”
Most of the vendors that Kashmir Reader spoke to said they had to get into this business for the lack of any other job or work.
Mohammad Sultan, who sells leather items, blamed the Indian media for the downfall in tourism. “I’ve been having a stall here for years, and I have seen a great fall in the rush of customers lately. In terms of tourism, I personally blame the national media for creating unnecessary fear about the situation in Kashmir. But, national media is not the only reason behind it.”
While many vendors hold the prolonged conflict in the state responsible for the downfall of the market, the rest view it otherwise. “Not all locals have the need to visit the market every week, and expecting the local crowd to be here every Sunday and to grow every week doesn’t make much sense. People buy when they need or desire, so shrinking of the crowd is expected,” said Habibullah, owner of a stall at the market.
Another vendor, Mohammad Zoor Malik, said that the decline in tourists this week is because of the hot weather in Srinagar. Tourists would have preferred colder places, he said.