Author: Saadut
•10:09 PM

Many years ago I was at Hong Kong to attend a professional event. Such events being social interaction gatherings, it was here one evening that I had an encounter with this ‘western educated, affluent appearing’ Pakistani gentleman. From cricket, Chinese economic growth, American (imminent) decline ...the talk soon shifted towards Kashmir. He was keen to know about the ‘war’ there.  We were surviving I told him. “How did you travel out of Kashmir? Must be in bus till Delhi?” “Why bus, Srinagar has an Airport”. “Does it have?” (Surprised he twitched his eye brows).

“Why only Srinagar, Kashmir has 4 airports, one of them International” (I pushed the weight bars on his brain now, imagining Srinagar to be International. Of course later Srinagar did become International albeit momentarily). “Four!” he exclaimed. “Kashmir wants to become a part of Pakistan” he asserted reassuringly “Do they really?” (I quipped).

“What about Srinagar destroyed by Indian war?” I connected his statements to the PTV coverage of Kashmir where in they would run footage of burnt buildings, destroyed settlements and agonized faces in a nonstop ‘Kashmir news’ loop. Surely none of this was untrue about Kashmir, but did he know any more than this. “The aftermath of a bloody conflict” I said, imagining the bullet holed corpse buildings which had become landmarks in Kashmir. After my ‘strong exclamation’ to his ‘become a part of Pakistan’ assertion, not wanting to be drowned in talk of conflict and Kashmir pain, he shifted gears. “Do you have any good hotels there?” “You looking for 5 star or 6 star? Kashmir has both categories” (pushing more pressure valves of his brain now, even though there are no 6 star here and one of the 5 star was a symbol of politically aided corporate occupation, the other leased for peanuts by political jokers to Indian corporate feeders as a part of a monarchic sellout).

I could see him escaping from ‘Kashmir conflict’ to ‘Kashmir the backward’. He seemed lost and gulped a deep drink, as I ran my finger over the edge of my coffee cup enjoying his confusion. “And yes did I tell you Kashmir has Asia’s oldest ski slopes and best Golf courses” He lost his balance here “Golf courses” he gulped. “Yes six of them”. I could see the unease in him now “But Pakistan does send a lot of aid to Kashmir” he proclaimed “Aid? Where? It sends nothing but rhetoric to Kashmir”. I should have told him that Pakistan was one of the stones along with India that had been grinding Kashmir as wheat for six decades, but I could see him lost between the PTV fed images and my drawn images of Kashmir’s golf courses (which ironically are the political escape of this Kashmir conflict, the proxy puppet class hangouts having become super rich selling the misery of Kashmiris). It was these ‘west travelled, home ignorant, affluent’ Pakistanis that would inherit political or bureaucratic mantle sooner or later, whose ignorance and indifference towards the realities of Kashmir had cost us dearly.

But such ignorance was not limited to the other side only. The Indian side had its own ignorance levels, some fed by the government other led by a perpetual disconnect. Many a times I have encountered people from mainland India who perceive Kashmiri’s to be some skull caped, long bearded, gun trotting tribesmen, who are on free run in the valley.

Kashmir for many of them is reflected in the frames of ‘Pak thundering, one man army Sunny Deol movies’, where the ‘bad’ Kashmiri has been brainwashed by Pakistan and the ‘good’ Kashmiri lives content in a forest edge hut by the river bank, at peace with India. Their idea of Kashmir was limited to the Doordarshan fed “Army ‘sadbhavna’ helping Kashmiri’s fight terror” or the ‘bomb blast in every corner of Kashmir’. They imagined ‘intolerant and evil Kashmiri’s having burnt all temples of the minority community in Kashmir’ straight out of some rightist pamphlet distributed by the ‘Panun extreme’ (lately many Panun guys have openly endorsed Zionism). “There are Muslim migrants too who left Kashmir in thousands, while other religious minorities like Sikhs stayed back” I would apprise and I have seen the faces of India’s ‘better’ educated staring disbelievingly. 

I was stunned when some ‘corporate’ed gentlemen from India’ informed me that “Kashmir had been a Hindu majority region till in 90’s Muslims from Pakistan invaded, drove the ethnic locals out and occupied Kashmir”. Conveniently doctored history or an overdose of right winged nationalism? If they failed to see the reasons behind millions of Kashmiri’s protesting and pouring on roads, in spite of the almost seven lac military force India has stationed in Kashmir, they were sure encountering a mental block. Of course the ‘Kashmir survives on Indian aid’ story makes a repetition every now and then, India’s plunder of water, strategic and political rights of Kashmir unrecognized by them. Tell them “Kashmir is a political problem” and they will retort “What political problem? You have had good elections all along; we have seen it on TV!”

Years ago, a summer evening was being spent with friends in the lush lawns of the Nishat garden. As a group of tourists walked close, I heard one of ‘the more learned exhibits’ of them point towards the Zabarwan range “Behind those mountains lies Pakistan, from where ‘aatankvaadis’ infiltrate”. I almost wanted to add "that is the Chinese border on Srinagar, Pakistan is across the Dal lake, just in the center of Srinagar"

And imprudently it’s this India and Pakistan that lay claim on Kashmir! 

16th May 2012

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On May 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM , Vidyut said...

Very superb