India

India minister makes obscene finger gesture

Indian tourists in Gulmarg in January 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of tourists have visited Indian-administered Kashmir this winter

A minister in Indian-administered Kashmir has made an obscene gesture to journalists after he was asked why shopkeepers in his constituency were fleecing tourists.

Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who represents the tourist resort town of Gulmarg, waved his middle finger, reporters at the scene said.

Mr Mir told the BBC that he was joking with reporters at an informal chat.

Tourists had complained to reporters about overcharging at Gulmarg.

The incident took place at an official function at Magam, 25km (15 miles) north-east of Srinagar city.

'Joking'

A television journalist asked the minister why shopkeepers, who rent warm clothing and sunglasses to tourists in Gulmarg, were overcharging, the BBC's Riyaz Masroor in Srinagar says.

"What have you got to do with this [fleecing of tourists]? Let me see how your story affects me," Mr Mir said as he waved his middle finger, a reporter at the scene said.

Mr Mir told the BBC that he had "jokingly said that why should the poor shopkeepers be deprived of their daily earnings".

Hundreds of thousands of tourists, mostly Indians, have visited Indian-administered Kashmir this winter.

More than 20,000 people, including many shopkeepers, make a living from tourism in Gulmarg and Tangmarg alone, our correspondent says.

Tourists allege that they are charged hundreds of rupees a day to rent coats, snowshoes and sunglasses.

The region has been in the grip of an armed insurgency against Indian rule for more than two decades and thousands of people have been killed there.

But the region, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has recently seen a drop in violence and tourists have returned in large numbers in recent years.

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