Flourishing tourism and peace crises in Neelum Valley

The undeclared war between India and Pakistan make people not to visit the Neelum valley because of firing threats. Many time people have been stopped or evicted from Neelum Valley by force.

Like Europeans the people of Neelum Valley also faced a dark era. It was the last five decades of last century. After the partition, in the month of October 1947 Pakistan sent it’s tribes to take over the throne in Jammu Kashmir. It was a dark night and the Eid-e-Qurban was few days ahead when the people of tribal areas of Pakistan’s (NWFP) North Western Fortier Province appears on the check post of Bararkot to slaughter the men, women and children of peaceful state of Jammu Kashmir. Over the night they were knocking on the doors of Muzaffarabad and the next day was their Eid.

Neelum Valley is a narrow belt in the North-East of Muzaffarabad (Current political hub of so called AJK). It is 144km long bow-shaped forested valley. The old name of Neelum Valley was Darawa or Kishan Ganga Valley. “Kishan” refers to a God of Hindu’s where “Ganga” refers to rive and a Goddess of Hindus as well. Neelum Valley has a rich religious historical background specifically for Hindus and Buddhists. In the early 1960’s that “Kishan Ganga Valley” embraced Islam and become “Neelum Valley”. The holly “Ganga” is now river Neelum.

Neelum Valley has a great geographical importance for the region weather it is Pakistan, India or China for both war and trade routes. It connect the Gilgit Baltistan to Pakistan, the route is shorter than the NWFP route of Silk way. Through this narrow belt the mountains of Himalaya can be reached, and the great Deo’sai also.

Neelum Valley was a major defending area in all the wars for Pakistan Army. In 1989 when Jammu Kashmir Liberation front (A political party advocating the Independence of Jammu Kashmir) starts their military operation in Indian Held Kashmir. Thousand of militants from Punjab, KPK, and Waziristan moved to Neelum Valley and settle there as it was the major operational camp for the valley. Idle militants from Afghanistan also moved to Kashmir to fight with Indian troops in Jammu Kashmir.

Years Before on CFS both Indian and Pakistan used to fire in the other occupational areas. But after starting this military operation the shelling increased tremendously. People specially Mullah’s from Pakistan Reached the valley to guide the youngsters and advice them to do Jihad. They start preaching that Jihad is a religious responsibility on Muslims and it is vital for the people of Kashmir. The literature on Jihad and propaganda against Hindus start in the valley which fascinated the people specially the youngsters of the Valley. They start doing Jihad against India and for the Freedom of JK.

Thousands of young people left their jobs, education and homes to join militants. A sharp decline occurred in education, resources and man power in the valley. Businesses destroyed, people left the valley. Infrastructure fell down, roads vanished. There were no hospital for any emergency, no school to sit for education, no business to earn bread & butter. Those who could effort settled in Muzaffarabad and other major cities of Pakistan and those who couldn’t were facing death every day. No one could predict that the person who left his house for job would be left safely or not.

India use to target the houses as they are sitting on the other front of this narrow valley and kill any person they can seen. Many people were targeted on the different places; killing of people of Neelum Valley was their favorite game.

All the connections with the rest of the world were vanished. The only resource of Neelum Road was blocked from many places. People use to travel by bypass which takes two days to reach Muzaffarabad and sometime never. The major lose was economic lose a whole generation had been pushed into the war and poverty. People were living in Stone Age again.

It was the last year of 20th century when Musharaf took over the government and sent Nawaz Sharif to Jail. Cease fire agreements in 2003 have signed between India and Pakistan which let the people of Neelum Valley breathe again with their own lungs. In 2004 Neelum Valley got the status of District and the local administration start sitting in Athmuqam. Through the years of peace from 2004 to 2013 Business came back in Neelum. New and young generation started to go school again. New jobs and business opened the opportunities for the people.

Meanwhile tourism flourished in the Neelum after the completion of Neelum to Muzaffarabad road the gap between Neelum Vallian’s bridged and it opened the new door of tourism in Neelum Valley. In the first year of 2014 an estimated (Assumed) figure of two million people visited Neelum and then it becomes the hub of tourism. Every year since million of people from the different areas of Pakistan have been visited here where international tourists are not allowed to go in the area.

In 2016 after the encounter of Burhan Wani (a militant freedom fighter) some unidentified people attacked on an Indian post in Uri near CFL and killed 19 Indian troops. This event erupt the cross firing on SFL and working boundary. Since that hundred of Kashmir’s have been died on the both side of CFL because of firing and heavy shelling. People have been displaced and the assets (including shelters and animals) have been destroyed and the armies on the both sides are going on with the same power show.

The undeclared war between India and Pakistan make people not to visit Neelum valley because of firing threats. Many time people have been stopped or evicted from Neelum Valley by force. This summer for almost two months no one was allowed to visit Neelum Valley. People of Pakistan and other world thinking Neelum Valley as a most beautiful but more dangerous place for visiting. The people of Neelum Valley urge the tourist through different ways like rent free week, cheap rent week and different festivals for the tourists but when the authorities think it should stop they make it happen through firing on CFL. After all Neelum valley seems a cantonment from Chelhana to Tao Butt.

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