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
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?