Kashmir Indepth

Coronavirus: FIR registered against houseboat owner for hosting and hiding a British citizen

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir police registered an FIR against houseboat owner in Dal Lake of Srinagar for hiding whereabouts of a British citizen he was hosting since March 15, The Economic Times reported.

The foreign tourist has reached to Valley via Srinagar-Jammu Highway and had managed to skip the Foreigner Registration Offices of both J&K tourism and J&K police in Srinagar. Last week when the foreigner was found he was immediately taken to the hospital for a checkup where his condition was stated to be stable and was directed to remain in quarantine, said the report.

According to the report, J&K police accidentally found the foreigner on the houseboat in Dal Lake, last week, when one of their officials was on a different assignment inside the Lake. The FIR 45/2020 has been registered at Nehru Park police station under sections 269 and 188 of IPC.

J&K administration on March 17, 2020, had issued an order banning entry of all foreigners into Kashmir. Foreign tourists already present in Kashmir were directed to leave immediately and the tourism operators were asked to report about the presence of any foreigners as well. A week later, on March 24, Government of India imposed a 21 days lockdown to break the chain, ensure social isolation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, said the report.

“We weren’t aware of this British person as he had come here by road and didn’t register anywhere. Now, we found him, the action was taken accordingly,” the newspaper quoted the Director Tourism Kashmir, Nisar Wani as saying.

He said that a US national had reached Pahalgam in southern Kashmir around March 18 and she was immediately traced and sent back, even though it took a while to convince her about the prevailing situation.

The tourism sector in Kashmir is facing the worst crisis in past few decades and was put to grinding halt, since August 5, 2019, when the central government revoked the special status of J&K and downgraded the state into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. This was done through J&K Reorganization Act passed by the parliament on August 5 and 6. Over ten days before the decision, in the last week of July government had asked all the tourists both domestic and International, pilgrims of then ongoing Amarnath Yatra and non-local labourers to leave. However, since February 2020, few of the tourists had started trickling in and around 8182 tourists including 1699 foreigners arrived in Valley in February 2020 while as 4208 tourists including 827 foreigners arrived in Kashmir till March 15, 2020.

“Officials have traced over 22 foreigners from different countries stuck in Kashmir after the government imposed lockdown in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This also includes members of a football team,” the newspaper quoted the sources privy to the issue as saying.

“Government is aware these foreigners and they have been kept under isolation and protocol has been followed,” The Economic Times quoted a senior official in J&K administration as saying.

An official said that all of them have been kept under surveillance and quarantine at their respective hotels and houseboats. Most of them have tested negative for COVID-19, while as a result of few is awaited. However, Wani didn’t confirm this number and officials in the administration didn’t respond to calls and messages.

“We have some foreigners here who have arrived in December and January and are working here,” said Wani.

J&K tourism department had hired a US national as snow safety officer, who arrived in Kashmir on December 28 and is currently staying in Gulmarg. At least three foreigners, working on a project in Kunzer are also present in Kashmir. They have been put into isolation at a hotel there. Another Brazilian woman is staying in private accommodation in Munawarabad Srinagar and she has also been put under quarantine.

“If you are aware of some other foreigners who we are unaware about please inform us as it will help us,” newspaper The Economic Times quoted Nisar Wani as saying.

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