SRINAGAR, Aug 9:With an aim to give new direction to state’s rich heritage treasure, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, today ordered constitution of a high-level Committee in Tourism & Culture Departments which will hold series of consultations with the Rajasthan-based Indian Heritage Hotels Association (IHHA) to convert state’s built-in heritage into remunerative and productive assets.He said J&K was the only state in the country which was a premier tourist destination even before independence. “Our state is a goldmine of heritage assets and the Government will take all steps to showcase them by maintaining the regal essence of its glorious past,” he added.
The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of Tourism portfolio, said this over a luncheon meeting with delegates of IHHA, including its President, Maharaja Gajsinghji of Jodhpur, here this afternoon.
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, MLCs, Ajat Shatru Singh and Vikramaditya Singh, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, MD JKTDC and Director Tourism Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad Shah, Member, National Monuments Authority, Union Ministry of Culture, Saleem Beg and representatives from hotel industry, tour and travel operators and houseboat owners were also present on the occasion.
Highlighting the allure of an inquisitive traveller towards the history of an era gone by, Mufti Sayeed said reviving the state’s heritage assets and showcasing them as centrepieces of our culture will save these properties from decay. He tasked the Committee to interact with IHHA in shaping J&K’s Heritage Tourism Framework so that we are able to promote our treasure of built-in heritage as well as rich repository in art, culture, handicraft, cuisine and music.
In earlier meetings chaired on promotion of heritage, the Chief Minister had issued directions to the Tourism Department to restore major heritage monuments and integrate them as destination points into Valley’s Tourism Circuit. The State is closely working with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in mapping state’s heritage properties.
Laying stress on involving local stakeholders in reviving their old villas as heritage cottages, cafes, museums and cultural centres so that they become productive assets, the Chief Minister described houseboats, handicraft and cuisines as part of its rich heritage. “In the past, cultural tourism and handicraft sectors, being prime attraction for visitors, were the main sources of income for the people of the state,” he said while referring to the steps Government was taking to resurrect these vital sectors which received major setback during the years of turbulence.
Asking the Tourism Department to take a leaf out of Rajasthan’s initiatives, which has seen them convert grandeur of its palaces, castles and forts into prime objects of heritage sightseeing, Mufti Sayeed said the state needs to similarly project its shrines and pilgrim destinations on a much larger canvas. “I was at Ajmer Sharief recently and I saw a number of devotees from my state there in large numbers paying obeisance at the holy shrine,” he added.
Describing various cultures of the state as its greatest binding force, the Chief Minister said J&K is safe because of its multiculturalism and rich hospitality. “We have won hearts of the people because of the love and affection we have showered upon them,” he stated.
The Chief Minister also highlighted the rich influence of Central Asian countries on the state’s handicraft and cuisines and complimented the people for sustaining the rare arts for such a long time.
Maharaja Gajsingh Ji, in his address, thanked the Chief Minister for meeting the delegates of IHHA. He said IHHA, besides meeting Minister of Education, Naeem Akhtar, has also held several meetings with local stakeholders and a concept paper in the matter will be submitted to the Tourism Department shortly.
The President of IHHA also invited the Chief Minister to the Association’s Annual Convention at Ranthambore, next month. He also presented a book to him on the heritage hotels of India.
Established in 2001 with 13 members, IHHA today has grown into one of country’s major heritage organisations with 184 members. The IHHA delegates are here in the summer capital, where it convened its Executive Committee meeting yesterday.