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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser