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'She still does not know... Please don't tell her'

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Last updated on: June 21, 2004 14:16 IST

Rimple Shah is lying on a bed in Srinagar's SMHS Hospital battling for life unaware that no member of her immediate family will be around to nurse her back to health.

They had come to Jammu and Kashmir for a holiday. But her husband Bhavesh, daughter Neelu (8) and son Ratik (10) were among the five persons killed in a grenade explosion at a Pahalgam hotel on Saturday. [Ratik succumbed to his injuries on Sunday taking the toll to 5]

Lying helplessly in her hospital bed, Rimple can hardly talk. Doctors have inserted a tube through her nose to feed her. Her father-in-law Chanderkant Shah reached Srinagar on Sunday from Mumbai to take care of her.

"She still doesn't know that her husband and two children died in the explosion. We have not told her anything. Please don't tell her anything. Her condition is serious and she may break down on hearing the news," Shah said trying to hold back tears.

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The state administration sent the bodies of Bhavesh and his two children to Mumbai. The bodies of the other two victims were also sent to their native places.

In the adjacent ward, the manager of Hotel Purnima, where the grenade was lobbed, is undergoing treatment. Jaleel Ahmed was on the cash counter when "I suddenly heard a loud sound and the next moment saw blood oozing out from my body. Gathering myself, I rushed out.

"I looked back and saw the tourists who were enjoying their lunch a few seconds back lying in pools of blood. I cried and someone took me to a hospital."

Jaleel says the restaurant was full. "We serve Punjabi, Gujarati and other dishes and our restaurant is always crowded with tourists. I am shocked. Thank God I am safe."

The loud ringing of the phone disturbs Javed Ahmad, an employee of a health resort in Pahalgam. The resort has been getting enquiries from tourists. But accommodation won't be easy to come by, as the resort is nearly full.

However, the voice at the other end pours cold water over his upbeat mood, as the caller is not sure if he wants to keep his reservation.

"I am worried as guests are making queries about their safety. I assure them that Saturday's was an isolated incident. Despite this, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over tourism in J&K after the grenade attack."

But others are not willing to play into the hands of militants who apparently want to scare tourists.

"My family is worried but I am enjoying my stay in Kashmir. I was in

Pahalgam on Saturday. I will visit Gulmarg on Monday and then leave for Jammu," says Mahesh from Ahmedabad.

"Suddenly, there is tension and you just feel insecure. In this situation, one really cannot enjoy the stay though the weather is excellent and my family and I had planned to stay for some more days. Security is indeed a concern."

It is to address this concern that Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed visited several popular tourist destinations and interacted with tourists on Sunday. He also reviewed security measures and amenities available to the tourists.

He was seen personally assuring tourists that 'adequate security arrangements were in place and that they should not let the Pahalgam incident affect their holiday plans in Kashmir."

Tourism had picked up in the state early in 2004 after 14 long years with every available tourist accommodation booked in advance. About 3,000 people entered Srinagar every day in May.

But Rimple's tragedy has given rise to uneasiness about the continuation of this trend. Her father-in-law wants to keep the bad news away from her for as long as possible, but after what they have been through over nearly two decades the people of Kashmir do not ever want to hear any bad news.
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar