We reached Chandigrah today.
On the way we visited Pahalgam and Pathankot.
Sad to leave kashmir. Happy to leave kashmir.
More than kashmir’s breathtaking natural beauty, which doesn’t need to be told, i fell in love with the people – not of the Jammu region but of Kashmir. The common kashmiri is poor, very poor - among the poorest in the country. But they have a grace few Indian have. The way they carry themselves, the manner they greet complete strangers, the help they extend to “Indians” like us who are exhausted after a long journey, the way they suffer harsh nature and cruel security forces is not to be seen anywhere in the country.
A tea shop owner lit his kerosene stove to dry us when he saw we were completely drenched and shivering. he refused to take money for the tea. When we thanked him, he was shocked. he thought it was his duty to help people in distress.
People allowed complete strangers like us to use their cell phones, which is very risky in Kashmir.
A motorcycle mechanic travelled 30 kms to fix our bike when he was told that our gear had snapped and we were in serious trouble in the middle of mountains. he did not charge extra money and instead invited us to his home to have lunch – Kashmiri wazwan!
“Go back India,” yelled slogans painted on the walls at the heart of Srinagar.
“hame na Hindustan chahiye, na Pakistan,” at least 50 people told us during our stay in kashmir, in a cold, matter of fact way. “We need azadi, not only from these two countries but also from the corrupt politicians.”
In Srinagar we saw martyrs’ coloumns – more than 2000 of them. All had been killed by security forces – some of them 10-year-old.
Traffic was suddenly brought to a halt by ear- piercing sirens as about 20 cars, with army jawans CARRYING HMGs and LMGs and AKs, surrounding an ambassador with jammers fixed to its tail. They whizzed pass us.
“Who was it?” I asked a shop owner.
“Koi chor mantri hoga,” he said, without even looking up.
At Pathankot, we were surprised to see army jawans smiling, sipping tea.
In Kashmir they always look grim, their AK 47s at their sides always, the fingers on the triggers, always.
“Amazing yaar! I don’t understand why they don’t consider themselves to be Indians.They all support f…ing Pakistan, these bas…ds.”
“The chor netas keep them poor. That is why they become militants. The same chor netas don’t give us jobs. So we join the army. Kashmiris consider us to be militants – Indian militants.”
These words from the 6’ 5” Harianvi, posted at the army cantonment at Sonmarg, stirred me. He was a “bara-class” pass.
When Sonmarg was cut off from the rest of india, he, like many of his comrades, survived for six months on dry food. He saw only one colour – white. He had to go on LRP, high above the mountains, wading through knee-deep snow, looking for the elusive Kashmiri militant he knew was no where around.
“It is a got up game. Pakistan pushes the militants across the borders, informs the Indian soldiers. And the lads are butchered. their photographs are taken by the media and spread all over the world. This is a money-spinning business,” said a graduate, who had taken over arms 10 years ago and is now disillusioned.
“Mujhe na Hindustan chahiye na Pakistan. Mujhe azadi chahiye. We want a country where people will learn not to cheat. We want an honest country, even if it remains half-fed,” he said. “I know this will never happen. But even at the time I die, I will have this dream.”
I wanted to upload photos of the martyrs' coloumns. I failed. some software blocks them.