Bandipora tribal girl travels to unusual places and helps put them on the tourism map
Shabnam Bashir Gojar, a young tribal girl from Bandipora district in northern Kashmir, is an avid hiker. Her obsession with exploring unusual places led her to put Ketsen, a scenic valley in the district, on the tourist map. She makes strenuous efforts to highlight other unexplored places as tourist attractions.
Originally from Aloosa village in the district, Shabnam is a tourism student. She succeeded in putting the Ketsen area of the district on a tourist map after four years of continuous efforts.
Ketsen is one of seventy-five tourist destinations recently identified by the J&K government due to its historical and scenic beauty and cultural significance.
Shortly after its inclusion as a tourist destination, J&K Tourism solicited applications from area residents for homestay registration, creating job opportunities in one of the most remote areas of the district.
Ketsen, a scenic grassland in the district, has witnessed a good number of tourist arrivals after being featured on a tourist map with tourists flocking to the area for trekking, horse riding, sports and many other activities.
Shabnam, a 22-year-old studying tourism, told Rising Kashmir that she had dreamed since childhood of bringing unexplored tourist spots in her region to light.
She said her trekking journey started in 2019 after she toured the area and started analyzing the tourism potential of the area.
Initially, she used social media to showcase the scenic spot and grab the attention of netizens. “I posted many videos regarding the Ketsen, its beauty and other background information so that people who come here don’t face any difficulty,” she said.
Continuing promotion via social media for two years, Shabnam authored the book “Uncharted Kashmir” in 2021 in which she scripted the Ketsen and many other places in detail for their tourism potential.
Shabnam said she used primary and secondary sources in her research for the book, including personal experiences gained from visiting these places, interacting with the tribal community in addition to conducting interviews with older tribal people who told the oral history of these places.
She said the main motive for compiling the book was to present a guide to the people of Kashmir to these unexplored areas so that adventure seekers would be attracted to these places.
“The Kashmir Valley is not just about Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Dal Lake. Tourism is also beyond these clichéd places,” she said.
“My main motivation is that I feel compelled to give back to the community and the prairies where I belong,” she added.
“The purpose of my first book is also to bring the pain and miseries of the people of these places, including the tribal community, into the public domain,” she added.
Shabnam completed her three-year diploma in tourism and is currently studying a bachelor’s degree in tourism.
“I have made tourism a goal of my life and my efforts will continue to draw public attention to many other hidden tourist destinations in Bandipora,” she said.