Mehbooba Mufti had an interactive session with the media at a Juhu hotel on Thursday. Pics/Satej Shinde
Mehbooba Mufti had an interactive session with the media at a Juhu hotel on Thursday. Pics/Satej Shinde

The last vestiges of snow capping a hilltop, a lawn glittering like an emerald at noon with sunbeams glancing off it and blooms of shouting colour filling up a picture postcard vista, where could it be but in paradise? Kashmir is ‘jannat’ was the overriding theme on Friday evening, at a Juhu hotel.

Boost to tourism
The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti was in Mumbai and had an interactive session with the media at a Juhu hotel. The aim of the session was to showcase the State and boost tourism.

Mufti believes it is the apt time to boost tourism in J&K
Mufti believes it is the apt time to boost tourism in J&K

The ballroom of the hotel was packed to the brim and Mufti arrived after quite a long wait with the audience being repeatedly told she is just "five minutes away."

Keep politics out
When Mufti arrived, to the media’s surprise, ready with questions about J&K, which inevitably also meant questions about conflict, some film industry persons and travel agents chipped in with suggestions of their own, Mufti first stated, "Keep political questions out of this or to a minimum, this is about tourism. I have come to invite you all to Kashmir." She rued the media penchant of "hyping the negatives and creating a fire everywhere, which is a setback for tourism."

One young lady in the audience spoke about how "international schools in J&K, like International Baccalaureate (IB) Schools can boost tourism."

Another young lady spoke about how she travelled alone in J&K and it was "so safe". Another reminisced about her "honeymoon in Kashmir" and a travel professional read out a long poem, with the lines that he would like to be dead and covered with a carpet of flowers in Kashmir or lines to that effect with much wah wahs and applause.

Bollywood connect
"Bollywood has always loved Kashmir," said Mufti, as several Bollywood personalities in the audience smiled. We caught sight of Ranjit, F Jalal, R Murad and there were others but it was difficult to spot them in the crowd.

Finally the media managed to squeeze in some questions. Some points raised to which Mufti answered were...

On terrorism and militancy... We need to change our mindset about Kashmir, we can fight militancy and terrorism in our own way, make it a point to visit Kashmir this year, and this will be the biggest tribute to our men from the armed forces who have been martyred fighting in J & K. I want to see the children of J & K smiling again and chasing birds, bees and butterflies instead of pelting stones...

Whether private players are investing in J&K... We do put a stress on infrastructure but it is important that locals have a stake in tourism and thereby locals must have a stake in peace.

Whether Alia Bhatt or Deepika Padukone should be the brand ambassador of J&K… I would go for one of the Khans. I think Salman Khan will be best suited for that.

The deadly terror outfits Laskhkar and Hizb telling people to boycott voting in J&K… this happens every year, it is not a new development.

On the changing equation in the Indo-Pak relationship... there are ups and downs. I can only go back to A B Vajpayee’s statement, you can change your friends, not your neighbours.

After that, it was back to Bollywood as the trailer of a forthcoming film on Kashmir was about to be unveiled. While Mufti was eloquent, it was evident that the accent last evening was on all things beautiful, birds, butterflies and Bollywood instead of bullets. Mehbooba Mufti ‘sahiba’ deft with words, made sure most of the conversation steered towards that.