Kashmir is torn between tourism and the militants

UNTIL KASHMIR'S insurgency broke out 10 years ago, every other Bollywood musical used the stunning scenic beauty of the state as a backdrop for romantic dance routines.

With the eruption of violence, the film-makers fled. And Kashmir's cinemas closed as well, bombed into darkness by Islamic militants. They have been closed ever since. Then last year two small new ones opened. But both were in military cantonment areas, well protected against attack.

So the reopening last Friday after 10 years of the Regal Cinema in central Srinagar was a bold attempt to turn back the clock to happier times. But it was not to be: after the second screening - the film a typical slice of Hindi escapism entitled Love Is Not Just a Game - militants threw grenades at the audience streaming out, killing two and injuring 20.

The Regal is dark again now. On Sunday Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, an Islamic fundamentalist militant group, said it was responsible and demand-ed that all cinemas, video cassette shops and cable TV operators close in two days.

Underlining their demand, militants also ransacked the premises of a cable TV operator outside Srinagar, destroying his equipment. Tehreek- ul- Mujahideen says it has called for the ban to enforce strictly the Islamic code of conduct throughout the Kashmir Valley.

In the proscription of something as innocent as film-going there is a strong whiff of Afghanistan's Taliban, for whom any medium that employs human imagery is taboo.

But observers in Srinagar believe this is less a reflex of Islamic dogma than the latest round in a trial of strength and propaganda between the militants and the state authorities. The Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, and his government are doing everything in their power to tell the world that life in Kashmir is back to normal - or even better than that.

This year saw the return of a few film crews to the valley. A Hindu temple that locked its doors in 1990 opened again to the few Hindus still living here. In spring, domestic tourists began streaming back to Kashmir - 75,000 by the end of May, compared with 615 for the same period in 1990 and 2,000 last year.

It was at this point - some believe it was no coincidence - that Pakistani Army infiltrators in the mountains north-east of the valley provoked the Kargil conflict, which nearly plunged India and Pakistan into another full-scale war.

But the Pakistanis and their militant allies withdrew. And now state government ministers insist Kargil was no more than a nasty hiccup in Kashmir's return to normality.

To ram home the message, Dr Abdullah also this month announced the granting of a licence to India's first casino, due to open in autumn in Srinagar's Grand Palace Hotel, offering competition to the host of casinos operating in and around Kathmandu in Nepal.

He has also authorised the building of a golf course, now taking shape on the shore of Dal Lake. Asked why he was pouring millions of rupees into such a venture when the state was practically bankrupt, he said: "Even if I have to spend billions ... of rupees I will do it for ... my people, who have no other means [except tourism] to earn their bread." Gambling and golf were followed in quick succession by the opening of the Regal Cinema. But now the militants have given their answer.

Kashmir's election - the final polling date in the state is next Monday - has been a terrifying shambles: a mass boycott, the assassination of a candidate of the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, the dragging of refusenik youths to the polls by paramilitaries, the attempted assassination of another candidate, have all left the valley in a state of extreme tension. To open a cinema and hail the return of normality against such a backdrop smacks of Don Quixote.

The confrontation in Kashmir seems to have entered a new phase. More than a military struggle, what is being waged now is a propaganda war. The militants are making a determined effort to paint the state government as illegitimate and Kashmir as ungovernable by India.

With the example of East Timor before them, now they see their best opportunity to present Kashmir as a suitable case for similar treatment - in particular for the holding of the plebiscite conditionally prom-ised by the United Nations on 1 January 1948 but never held. Any fair plebiscite would almost certainly go against India, as surely as East Timor's went against Indonesia.

Dr Abdullah tries strenuously, by contrast, to paint all Kashmir's problems as temporary local difficulties. But although it is true that most of the popular heat went out of Kashmir's insurgency years ago, he is not having much luck.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories