Kashmir houseboat owners cry foul

Protest against decision to deregister damaged boats

The famed houseboats of J&K were the focus of a unique protest on Monday, with dozens of owners moving around in shikaras (boats) on river Jhelum against the government’s decision to deregister damaged houseboats.

Floating protest: Houseboat owners press for fulfilment of their demands as they take  out a shikara rally on river Jhelum in Srinagar on Monday. PTI

Carrying black flags and shouting slogans, they moved in the wooden boats unique to Kashmir on river Jhelum, circling the city.

“We also want to beautify river Jhelum, but the authorities are not allowing us to repair old houseboats. They said 42 houseboats will be deregistered and classified as shabby houseboats,” said Muhammad Azim Tuman, chairperson of Houseboat Owners’ Association.

Compensation inadequate
He said the government’s compensation of Rs 3 lakh and three marlas, about 75 sqm of land, was inadequate. He said the houseboats were registered in 1977.

In 1982, the government banned construction of houseboats, but existing ones were allowed to be repaired. There are 500 houseboats in river Jhelum, Dal Lake and Nageen Lake.

“Since the authorities are telling us not to repair old houseboats, there will not be any houseboat left in another two decades,” said Tuman.

Government officials said houseboats are a major source of pollution in lakes and rivers.

“There are high court orders on this issue. We have to follow the directives. In fact, there is a proper procedure to repair houseboats and their owners must follow rules,” said a tourism department official.

The houseboats, also known as floating palaces, are a major tourist attraction in Srinagar.

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