By Yudhvir Sisodia
(Views expressed are of the author only)
Crown of India, heaven on earth, Kashmir with its pristine beauty is one of the most beautiful places not only in India, but across the world. Its beauty since time immemorial has fascinated and found exquisite mention in their art works.
Mother nature has done every bit on its part to preserve the tranquility and alluring scenic beauty of Kashmir, however, we ironically, have not left any stone unturned in its oppression.
Unfortunate to happen though, but I have witnessed this transition happen and even experienced it happening, when I have been to Kashmir. Its natural charm and its incredible culture have been ruthlessly destroyed and it seems as if there is no possible ray of hope to bring back Kashmir to its erstwhile graceful form.
Being son of a government servant, I got the opportunity in childhood to stay in Kashmir during my father’s tenure there in the early eighties. That time Kashmir was the most sought-after destination, not only for tourists, but also for the silver screen. Our gratitude to the film makers for bringing glimpses of this beautiful place to us through their movies, otherwise present generation never would have seen the beauty of Kashmir.
As I look back, that was the best part of my life. I can vouch for this because though I was too young, but I still remember those wonderful days and that sight of heaven on earth is imprinted in my mind today also and as fresh as it was then.
My father was posted in Anantnag district of Kashmir, and I lived with my mother at Srinagar because of education facilities there. In today’s scenario it’s just next to impossible to imagine that then we were living in a rented house owned by Kashmiri pandit family. The house, a typical Kashmiri architecture, is still alive in my memory. Located on the bank of river Jhelum, It seemed to have been built with lot of emotions and thoughts. I still cherish those beautiful evenings when we used to see the sunset and change of colours from yellow to orange and red in the sky as the sun went down. To add to this, the holy Azan and temple bells made the atmosphere pious and pure. I loved to see the house boats and people staying in them this being one of my favorite sight.
Stay in Srinagar city without any feeling of fear in those days, we used to mingle with the locals, irrespective of their caste or religion. Every weekend we were pre-occupied with plans of picnics to the famous Mughal gardens or the Dal lake or temples without any second thought.
Kashmir is also home to many divine destinations and popular among them is the shrine of ‘Amarnath’ which is the most important pilgrimage for the worshippers of the ‘Lord Shiva’. I was fortunate to have visited this holy place, which is in the heart of great Himalayas, where the natural beauty adds to the divinity and serenity of the shrine.
‘Those were the days’ -memories are still fresh as if all this happened yesterday.
Could anyone guess in those days, that decades later, the poison of terrorism would infect and spread in this heaven.
“Umar Gujar Jaati hai Insaan ki,
mehez ek ghar banane mein,
Tum taras nahi khate ho,
in bastion ko jalane mein”
My next visit to Kashmir valleys about two decades later brought me to a very forbidding face of Kashmir. I was zapped to see Kashmir in such a grim situation where nothing was same as I had seen in my childhood. This time I was in the valley as a government employee myself and was in the helm of affairs.
When I reached Srinagar, I was eager to visit the house where once we stayed, but the situation was not same now. Somehow I managed to visit and the very first sight of it almost made my eyes wet. House was empty, haunted and badly destructed. Portions of house which once were full of life and joy were now in ruins.
I also visited my school which was nearby. It now appeared more like a prison than a school, with high walls all around and lot of protection.
I was shaken badly in my second phase in Kashmir when I again I visited the holy Amarnath and had a close escape from an IED blast. With Gods grace the entire group I was travelling with was saved and we all were turned back. Three persons lost their lives and many were left injured in this dreaded incident.
When I close my eyes I always think what we have done to this beautiful piece of earth. The bright golden evenings have turned into darkness. How could someone be so harsh, heartless and inhuman. This act of terrorism is something very shameless, graceless and ruthless.
What we have done to Kashmir is not pardonable under any circumstances. Once called “Paradise on Earth” Kashmir has now transformed into netherworld.
I have mixed feelings of Sympathy, Grief, Fear and Anger.
“Sympathy and Grief” for the people of Kashmir whose life, which was once full of joy and contentment and rich in culture, is now always in the shadow of fear and treachery.
“Fear” that this situation might further damage Kashmir and “Kashmiriat” so badly that it will be impossible to revoke it.
And of course, “Anger” towards all those who are the very cause of bringing Kashmir to such a juncture where it is very difficult to decide which is the best foot forward.
Is it the military option which can bring an end to this situation?
Maybe this option is not enough without a strong political will. I say so because though the presence of military has been in Kashmir for decades now, but as we start to feel that situation is improving, this thought is yet again shattered by an act of terror and bloodbath. This option has been implemented though, but with a huge cost of precious human life of our martyred soldiers. The issue of Kashmir is not as simple as most of the people think. Every day innocent Kahmiris and brave heart soldiers are sacrificing their lives.
“Ray of hope is now clearly visible in this shadowy sky”
The much awaited political will has now been strongly displayed with the bold decision of the present government under the able guidance of the Honorable Prime Minister Modiji, with the abolishing of the Articles 370 and 35A. Many more concrete steps and decisions have also been taken by the government to bring normalcy in the valley.
Lets hope the government continues to take more such bold steps in future to further its manifesto “Zero Tolerance to Terrorism” policy to bring back the charm and beauty of Kashmir.