It is stated that if there is a heaven on earth, it have to be within the Kashmir Valley. It is a completely lovely place with heat, loving individuals. Sadly, nowadays, tourists are scared to go there. And I used to be too. However surprisingly, throughout my current two weeks go to; my wife and I felt fairly protected touring Kashmir. Here is an account of my experience, based mostly on interactions with quite a few local Kashmiris.
Every week earlier than my planned journey to Kashmir, we discovered that Zakir Musa, an Al-Qaeda militant and chief in Kashmir, was killed by Indian security forces. Violence had erupted in Kashmir. Regardless of that, we took the danger of visiting Srinagar for a day. Inside an hour after reaching there, we determined to extend our keep.
We found Kashmiris to be very trustworthy and welcoming. They need vacationers to go away the valley with a constructive picture. Once I visited the Shankaracharya Hindu temple in Srinagar, we felt no hesitation in trusting our rickshaw driver with two of our iPhones and an costly back pack.
Locals within the Kashmir Valley look like dwelling in peace and concord. These locals are pleased with their land and devotion to their Islamic religion. About 96% of the locals are Muslims and about 90% of those Muslims are Sunnis. I talked to about 25 Muslims, together with a 9 years previous woman; all of them observed the Ramadan fast referred to as Rosa.
At every major corner, we noticed Indian army guards standing with their guns, ready to shoot trouble-makers. The locals of the Kashmir Valley resent this all-pervading army presence.
The individuals of the Kashmir Valley dream of being an unbiased nation. They dream of a Kashmir where all like-minded individuals can reside in peace and prosperity. In Srinagar, I used to be stunned to study from my taxi driver that they don’t seem to be hoping to merge with Pakistan- or China-occupied Kashmir but need each inch of Jammu (63% Hindus), Kargil-Ladakh (90% Shia) and Leh-Ladakh (90% Buddhists) as a part of their larger Kashmir nation.
Earlier, once I was in Jammu, I discussed this with a Hindu business proprietor named Mohan (identify changed). He laughed off talks of an unbiased Kashmir nation. He talked about how the Srinagar Authorities had been harassing the individuals of Jammu. The Jammu is dominated by the Muslim majority Kashmiris. He additionally talked about how most funding was going in the direction of improvement of the Kashmir Valley. He felt that the event of Jammu and Ladakh was being neglected as a direct results of this preferential funding.
A Shia Kargil-born bank officer advised me that Ladakhis don’t need to merge with the brand new Kashmiri nation. Ideally, they need “Union Territory” standing. So, Ladakhis are joyful to lastly get some autonomy from the Kashmir Valley in the type of their just lately acquired “Divisional” standing.
Rinzen, a Buddhist journey agent in Leh, informed me that they didn’t need to merge with the Kashmir Valley as a result of that may heighten the danger of the Pakistani occupation of Leh. The Buddhists of Leh are conscious of the genocide of Kashimiri Pandits and are terrified of dealing with comparable spiritual persecution. They’re involved that they could lose the safety by India by becoming a member of the Kashmiris. Rinzen was unequivocal in her message. The Leh individuals need to stick with India. They need nothing to do with Kashmiris and Pakistan.
Stanzin, a Buddhist Homestay proprietor from Man-Ladakh, felt that Kashmiris usually are not good individuals. So, Ladakhis choose to be a part of India. He explained that Kashmiris are ungrateful parasites who profit from India, but they continue to be loyal to Pakistan.
Jammu metropolis, Srinagar and Leh are all cities in the same state. My barber was a Hindu man from Jammu city, who thought-about his choices for migration looking for better financial potential. As a Hindu, he knew that he wouldn’t survive in Srinagar. His safer choice was Leh; where I met him.
Jamyang, a Tibetan Buddhist refugee settled in Leh, advised me that the Buddhists of Leh often marry later and have 1 or 2 youngsters. In distinction to that, the Muslims of Leh typically have 2 to 3 wives and 4 to five youngsters. This has triggered a disproportionate improve in the measurement of Muslim population. Native Ladakhis love Tibetans as a result of they help keep their Buddhist culture. Jamyang further added that Buddhist taxi drivers of Leh are terrified of going to Srinagar. As far Tibetans are involved, they like to be part of India. They might quite not cope with Kashmiris in any respect.
In Jammu, I saw the Indian tiranga flags; with saffron, white and green colours; proudly displayed in all places. I noticed extra Indian flags on the streets of Jammu, compared to another metropolis in India. In the current 2019 elections, the individuals of Jammu and Ladakh elected all three members of the Indian parliament from the Bhartiya Janata Celebration (BJP, Modi’s social gathering).
Ali, a younger Shia fellow from Kargil, advised me that Muslim locals there helped the Indian army towards Pakistan in the course of the 1999 Kargil warfare. Many occasions he referred to himself by saying “We belong to Hindustan.” Additional, he advised me that in every procession in his city, they all the time display the Indian flag. He’s proud to be part of India.
Turtuk is a border city in Ladakh with 100% Muslim inhabitants. Turtuk was underneath Pakistani occupation but India obtained it back through the 1971 struggle. I talked to about 50 residents of Turtuk from all ages and their consensus was, “Ham to Hindustan ke saath hello khush hai”.
At meal time, whereas chatting with a Muslim family, a boy jokingly stated, “Hindustan aaya, ameer ho gaye” (India came in 1971 and we turned wealthy), and the whole family laughed. Additional, they talked about how the native individuals helped the Indian army through the 1999 Kargil battle with Pakistan. One resident stated “If Kashmir Valley positive factors independence, we’ll stay with India.” Another man stated “One time, when Pakistani terrorists got here to the town to promote their agenda, the elders handed them over to the Indian police.” This city had 75% voting in the final election and lots of voted for the BJP.
In contrast to Kashmir Valley, there was no army patrolling the streets of Ladakh. Individuals here haven’t any problem with India.
Most Jammu and Ladakhi individuals are glad with the current Modi led government and are proud to be a part of India.
In distinction to this, the saffron colour was utterly lacking in the flags and posters of the Kashmir Valley. The only exception was the tiranga flag inside the army compounds, protected by barbed wire fencing. Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist identities have been conspicuous by the entire absence of any of their symbols on local signage. The Kashmir Valley has placed restrictions on the building of Hindu and Buddhist temples within the valley. I noticed a sign that stated “Go India, Go Back” on one of the backstreets of Srinagar.
Within the Kashmir Valley, I felt like I used to be in an Arab or Middle Japanese nation. Although the individuals seemed Indian. Although their language sounded Indian.
In Srinagar, my rickshaw driver informed me that Mr. Modi will make Kashmir a kangal (penniless, destitute) state. He was positive that Modi will launch a serious struggle with Pakistan within the next five years. He was fuming with anger at the attainable removing of articles 370 and 35A from the Indian Constitution, which confer a particular standing on Kashmir. He emphatically warned that, that may be unacceptable to him and his fellow Kashmiris. Comparable intense emotions have been expressed by different Kashmiris. A taxi driver stated to me : “Zakir Musa, who you (Indians) call a terrorist, is Kashmiri’s freedom fighter.”
Kashmiris hate the media for making Kashmir look more violent than it truly is. This continues to severely impression their bottom-line–tourist revenue. This sentiment was expressed by many locals. They request tourists to not belief something that the media says.
Villages like Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag are on the border of Pakistan. Typically, these villages are hotbeds for militancy. Many educated professionals and school college students in Srinagar feel that the individuals of those villages are liable for episodes of violence. Nevertheless, any announcement for a strike after the Friday Mosque prayer causes a total shut down of Srinagar. Stone throwing by youths ensues, apparently not resulting from those “villagers” but by Srinagar locals. Based mostly on my restricted expertise, it isn’t clear whether or not the separatist notion is restricted to some militants or whether or not it is shared by the bulk within the Srinagar Valley. Nevertheless, it seems that the moderates haven’t any voice in the Valley or they want to remain silent supporters of the radicals.
There was a substantial amount of nuance in individuals’s views on Kashmir. No two individuals had the exact same views on Kashmir. Abdul, a Kashmiri store keeper in Leh, was optimistic concerning the state of affairs in Kashmir. He stated the Indian army continues to help take away militants and management violence. He hopes that Modi will deliver extra jobs and prosperity to the Kashmiri youth. Abdul stated: “Take a look at India’s map. Kashmir is the top of India. How can we separate the top from its physique?” Mahmood’s shop was beside Abdul’s shop. Mahmood was furious about army brutality. He wished that the army be removed instantly and Kashmir be given extra autonomy. He doesn’t have an issue being related to India as a result of it’s good for the financial system. However he does need more exclusive land rights. Mahmood’s technique seems to be–yours and mine is ours; but mine (the “Heaven”) is mine to make use of by others just for vacationer revenue. Such is the unfortunate double commonplace of the Kashmiri Muslims.
Kashmiris feel they are being dominated by Hindu majority India, however they do not understand that in their own state, Sunni majority Kashmir Valley is dominating Jammu (Hindu majority) and Ladakh (Shia and Buddhist majority) individuals. They select to ignore, or worse, help, the 1989 ethnic cleaning of Kashmiri Pandit households. Muslims drove out 360,000 Kashmiri Hindu Pandits with an ultimatum for all male Pandits to go away Kashmir and depart behind their wives and daughters (read the guide: “Our Moon has Blood Clots” by Rahul Pandita). Kashmiris will not be prepared to take Pandits back however are glad to incorporate Rohingya refugees from Myanmar; clearly just because they are Muslims.
Relating to Kashmiri Pandits, an area Kashmiri defined the 1989 state of affairs to me on this means. “It was Jagmohan’s concept to take Pandits out of Kashmir and then crush the rest of the Kashmiris.” Principally, he was making an attempt to convince me with incoherent logic that Pandits left Kashmir on their very own betraying their fellow Muslims. He added, “As punishment for breaching our belief, Kashmiris will never accept these Pandits back!”
We met a traveling Pandit family in Nishat Bagh who gave his narrative around the 1989 genocide. Mahesh described the incident as the 7th and the final drive to push Pandits to extinction from their house land. Mahesh’s family was pressured to give up their 14-room house in Srinagar and stroll away with whatever slot in a small purse. Their most trusted Muslim neighbour of very long time suggested them to simply stroll away. Thirty years after the genocide, this Pandit household continues to experience profound worry whereas passing by means of their former neighbourhood in Srinagar.
Mahesh also recalled his scholar life. He was denied admission into respected schools, regardless of securing higher grades than his Muslim peers. “Only in Kashmir, you will notice such reverse discrimination towards minorities. Nowhere else on the earth”, he stated.
Mahesh noted that in the past 30 years, Kashmiri Muslims have develop into very prosperous whereas the Pandits have misplaced every thing together with their homeland. Pandits additionally resent Hindu Indians for not supporting them enough once they have been in dire need. Because of the insufferable pain and frustration of their current past, Mahesh declined my request to video tape his story. He feels that nobody cares concerning the Pandits and it’s useless to document it another time.
I met Geeta in Kargil. She recognized herself as a “secular” scholar from Nagpur. She was clearly aware of the Rohingya state of affairs. Nevertheless, she had no information of the gross injustice of the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits. Has the brand new era of Indians forgotten the injustice to the Pandits?
It appears that the individuals of Kashmir Valley need to dominate over their minorities and have issues with India. But the individuals of Jammu and Ladakh haven’t any such points.
Kashmiri Valley Muslims need their unbiased nation, but this raises many questions:
- Is this want for Kashmiri Muslim sovereignty based mostly on Nehruvian documents? Or is it based mostly on the very fact Muslims now having achieved majority standing, in order that they really feel they will bully all other teams?
- Should India be thoughtful to Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and their supporters on Indian territories?
- Should India be divided once more, based mostly on religion?
- Ought to different Muslims from India be asked to maneuver to a newly shaped Muslim-Kashmir nation?
- If Kashmir turns into an unbiased nation, what is the assure that next, these Kashmiri Muslims won’t target the Hindus and Buddhists of Jammu and Ladakh? Will these Hindus and Buddhists endure the same fate as the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits?
- Will Pakistan hand over “Azad” Kashmir and let it merge with the new unbiased Kashmir nation? Will China surrender occupied Ladakh, Aksai Chin?
- Has anybody asked the Hindus in Jammu what their wishes have been? Has anyone asked the Shias in Kargil what their needs have been? Has anyone asked the Buddhist of Ladakh what their wishes have been?
- Ought to Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh be divided as three unbiased nations? Ought to individuals be pressured emigrate based mostly on their religions?
- Ought to China permit Uyghur Muslims to carve out separate nations? Ought to Russia permit Chechnya to interrupt away as a separate nation? Ought to Pakistan grant separate nation status to Balochistan?
- Is there one thing mistaken with India making an attempt to protect its integrity?
Muslims drove out or converted all Kashmiri Hindus during the last 700 years, nevertheless, right now’s Kashmiris definitely love Hindu tourists. Many native Muslims welcomed me and my wife. They invited us into their houses, for tea. Many locals gave us their telephone numbers, offering to help us if we acquired in hassle. One tourist information ebook talks about how that the stone pelting on the army was stopped because the locals realized a tourist had been by accident trapped in their battle. Kashmiris don’t need to harm Hindu yatris (pilgrims). Individuals in the hospitality business are upset at the Pulwama bomb blast because it’s significantly hurting tourist business in 2019.
At this time, Kashmiris clearly hate the Indian government. Nevertheless, they clearly love Hindu vacationers. Tourist revenue includes about 70% of their complete revenue. Do Kashmiri Muslims really care about “Hindu” tourists or do they only care about tourist income?
Talking concerning the Pulwama bomb blast, several Kashmiris had comparable takes on it. In accordance with them, it was all fabricated by the Kashmir State and Indian Governments for political achieve. One native questioned how a truck load of explosives was moved from Pakistan to India within the presence of robust border patrol. Based on one local, the government has not launched any proof concerning the id of the offender. I sensed that Kashmiris haven’t any concern with Pakistan. Their only situation is with the Kashmiri State and Indian governments.
Locals don’t belief their native elected Kashmiri State Authorities. I asked them: “It’s a democracy. So why don’t you choose the appropriate sort of leaders for you?” Their reply was “We don’t vote.” Solely 14% of the individuals of Srinagar voted in the last election. I requested them “Why?” That they had little interest in persevering with further discussions.
An lively obligation Indian army Jawan was curious and asked me a question, “How do these locals treat you?” Enthusiastically, I replied, “They love us. Kashmiris are good hosts.” The Jawan replied to me, “Fortunate for you. They hate us (the army). They call us filthy names. Any time a brick might fall on our head. I’m just doing my obligation.” After that, he paused and without taking a look at me he continued in a delicate tone, “I even have a wife and youngsters at house.” I noticed that I am having fun with this heaven on the expense of these army troops. I noticed the extent of their sacrifice. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Ought to Indian vacationers cease coming to Kashmir to punish the Kashmiris? Personally, I don’t assume that approach. Kashmir is a part of India, our personal nation and Indians ought to help out their fellow countrymen. The worry of dropping vacationer revenue is putting the brakes on Kashmiri militancy. Unemployed youths and poor residents are definitely a recipe for disaster.
I shared my good experiences in Srinagar with John, a scholar from San Francisco USA, who cancelled his flight to Srinagar. As an alternative, he went to Leh. Based mostly on what he had learn within the media, it was too dangerous for him to travel to Srinagar. Truly, John was right. 5 days earlier than we arrived in Srinagar and two days after we left Srinagar, there have been incidents of violence. As per one report, 413 individuals have been killed in 2018 resulting from violence in Kashmir. We had been fortunate during our brief window of stay in the Kashmir Valley. Vacationers who don’t consider in taking possibilities should, like John, fly straight to Leh.
Kashmir Valley is definitely God given heaven, however sadly everyone seems to be struggling: the majority Kashmiri Sunnis; the minority Shias, Hindus and Buddhists; the army personnel and; Indian and Pakistani taxpaying citizens who are paying for this costly cold conflict. The problems appear infinite and I don’t see a simple answer. Sadly, it appears that the status quo is the only near-term answer.
Nature will take its own course; violence will drive out tourists and drastically scale back revenue for Kashmiris, like it happened in 2019 after the Pulwama bomb blast. When Kashmiri Muslims present that they are really peace-loving individuals, then Indian and world tourists will return to Kashmir in giant numbers. Then they will prosper. It’s for the Kashmiri Muslims to determine what they want–violence or prosperity.
At the moment, the heaven is coated with violence. Like Muslims of Turtuk, let’s hope Kashmiris will go for peace and prosperity. Let’s uncover the heaven for all to take pleasure in.