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Press Release: Kashmir Houseboat Owners Face Uncertain Future

Houseboats came into being during the British Raj, when the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir refused the English the permission to build on the dry land. The British officer’s answer was to take to water, living in ornate houseboats. The style has hardly changed from the first houseboat built by Mr. Conard in 1888 right down to the boats being built today and the houseboat has become the Mascot of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and gained worldwide acclaim.                                                                                                                                                                                               It is an acknowledged fact that tourism in Jammu and Kashmir has gravely suffered as a whole and the Houseboat industry in particular due to the turmoil of last 30 years. Kashmir houseboats- long promoted as the picture of an ideal Kashmir Holiday- are facing an uncertain future. The houseboat community has been exploited politically, socially and financially for decades.                                                                                                                                                                                               In 2019 the Government of India issued a ‘Travel Advisory” on 2nd August and on 5th August 2019 the special status of Jammu and Kashmir “ Article 370 & 35A was abrogated by which tourism in Jammu and Kashmir was affected and suffered heavy losses, with houseboat owners bearing the brunt. This year 2020 the tourism industry has been once again hit hard by the Covid19 Virus which is another setback for houseboat community.                                                                                                                                             What I am worried about is that as per the old records available in department of tourism, the total number of registered houseboats in Dal lake, Nigeen lake, Chinar bagh and River Jhelum was 3000 and over the periods the number has come down to around 920 due to inclement conditions. There shall be no houseboats in Kashmir after 30 years, the reason for this is there are hundreds of houseboats which needs immediate repairs and reconstruction. Secondly, the timber which is so costly that the owner of the houseboat is not in position to afford. The Jammu and Kashmir administration should provide the timber to houseboat owners on subsidize rates. Apart of this there is a directions from the Jammu and Kashmir Hon’ble High Court that no exist houseboat should be repaired nor reconstructed at Dockyard which was inaugurated in 2010 by then State Tourism Minister. The houseboat owners pray to Hon’ble Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir Hon’ble High Court that His Lordship should allow houseboat owners to repair and reconstruct their houseboats at Dockyard. If the permission will be not granted then this “Icon of Kashmir” may soon become a memory and future generations shall come to know about it through text and images only.                                                                                                                                                                                           The houseboat owners has been ignored by the previous successive governments who only dish out promises but never tried to redress our grievances. How long will be the authorities turn a blind eye to our plight. Houseboat owners have been slow poisoned since 1990. Since houseboat industry is at the brink of collapse therefore, keeping the current situation in view the Jammu and Kashmir Administration as well government of India should pay an adequate compensation to all houseboat owners for the losses they suffered during 2019 and now in 2020 without any more delay.

Do Not Let Us Sunk
Regards Muhammad Yaqoob DunooHouseboat Owner