Gurez Valley:

The Heart-throbbing Land of Dards

Kashmir Magazine

Tahir Majeed

The areas situated close to the Line of control have now been thrown open to the public. These areas like Keran, Gurez, Tangdhar, Machil, and Bangus are the new tourist destinations, which have been added to the list by the government of India. Thanks to the Indian army which played a vital role to bring these area on tourism map.

With heart throbbing views of the hills, streams and famous Neelum (Kishenganga) River, Gurez Valley is being promoted as tourist destination and it is expected that the neighbouring county will not let these tourist places to be used as infiltration routes anymore.

Gurez valley is one among the best places to visit. The valley has been used as an infiltration corridor by the guerrilla outfits and People living along LoC were the main victims as shells and bombs fired would hit civilian areas.

February 25, 2021, was no less than an Eid for villagers living along the LoC in J&K. On this day India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe all ceasefire agreements along the LoC and other sectors.

People living in villages near the Line of Control are happily living their normal life and they are getting hugely benefited by the ceasefire agreement. Not only this but these government of India particularly with the efforts of Indian army concept of border tourism has changed things altogether.

Tourism in the forward areas to boost the local economy and to convert the LOC area into tourist spots is a historic decision. Nowadays, tourists from across the country visit the Gurez valley. Peace on borders have given a sense of security to those who intend to visit these tourist destinations located close to LOC. The Government of India seems highly interested in developing these area as tourist destination.

During my visit to Gurez Valley I saw people so enthusiastically welcoming the tourists. Our group held interactions with the local people and Tourists from different parts of the country who were enjoying the nature. We were surprised to see an amazing coffee shop The Log Hut Cafe in the town of DawAr in Gurez . It has been established by Indian army. All the staff running the cafe is local and were trained by the army personnel. Such type of cafe and food shops need to be established at every border tourist spot like in Bangus Valley, Tangdhar, Machil and Keran.

Gurez now seems a new Switzerland with immense beauty. Once part of ancient Dardistan, the valley of Gurez falls along the ancient Silk Route, which connected the Kashmir Valley with Gilgit. People here Speak Shina language and are full with qualities and hospitality. Gurez is located in the high Himalayas, about 86 kilometres from Bandipora Town and 123 kilometres from Srinagar City in northern Kashmir. At about 8,000 ft above sea level, the valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Razdan Pass divides this valley from Kashmir valley and it remains closed during winter season due to heavy snowfall on it.

The people of Gurez valley are ethnic Dards (Shins). They speak the Shina language and have the same styles of dress and culture as their kinsmen in Pakistani-administered Gilgit-Baltistan. Dawar is the central township in Gurez. The population of the area is estimated to be about 35,000 in its all fifteen villages. Dawar is an important archaeological site. In the village Kanzalwan the last council of Buddhism is believed to have been held here. Just at few miles distance in Neelum Valley (Pakistan held part) is Sharda Peeth or the Seat of Sharda, named after the goddess of wisdom Saraswati, is believed to be an ancient centre of learning established in 273 BC, even before the Takshila and Nalanda universities. This is the importance of the valley.

Gurez's most formidable peak is Habba Khatoon and this pyramid shaped peak was named after the Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon.
The emperor of Kashmir Yousuf Shah Chak, was enthralled by her beauty, intelligence and poetry. Shah is said to have arranged her divorce and married her. When Shah was imprisoned by his rival King Akbar, Habba Khatoon used to wander near this peak that now bears her name to look for her lover.

Before partition of Kashmir Gurez was destination for foreign tourists like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is known to have visited the valley some time before he became the US president.

Sports and boarder Tourism Potential:

?Experts believe that if the valley is promoted in a proper way it can attract tourists across the globe and can generate employment for thousands of unemployed youth of Kashmir. There is unparalleled potential of adventure tourism, sports tourism, trekking, water rafting, skiing, skating, rock climbing, snowboarding, paragliding, Heli-Skiing, Golf, and Polo.

The valley can prove to be the best destination in the world for carrying diverse potential to provide comfort for the mankind as the valley is not merely a tourist destination but has enough resources and potential to attract people belonging to all walks of life.

The media has a crucial role to play in putting emerging destinations like Gurez Valley. The Tourism is dependent on media reporting. The valley has been not given coverage it deserves. Recently a Kashmir based association of volunteers, Youth Peace Club (YPC) brought here a team of media persons who captured the beautiful scenery of Gurez, conducted interviews of the tourists and relevant persons to showcase its beauty and attract tourists towards this forgotten valley. Thousands of Social media users have played an outstanding role to showcase the beauty of the valley and these social media users have become link between common masses who are unaware about the Valley. These social media users have succeeded in creating awareness

What needs to be done:

a)? Establishment of separate Gurez Valley Development Authority.

b)?Setting up of tourist reception and information centres in summer capital Srinagar, Bandipora and at Gurez.

c)? Construction of tunnel through Razdan pass to avoid lengthy distance and to keep the valley open for vehicular movement throughout the year.

d)?Setting up of help line Nos and to introduce tourist guide mechanism.

e) Repairing of all interior roads in the valley.

f) To regulate all the trades involved in tourism in the valley.

g) Complete Ban on Polyethylene bags.

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