Finally I visited Kashmir. I longed to be in one of the most beautiful locations in the world for many years. It was a long cherished dream fulfilled when I availed the ‘Leave Travel Concession’ and flew to Srinagar for a short holiday with family.
I grew up hearing about the conflicts for Kashmir and the continuous violence. For many years, not a single news bulletin ended without a mention of any violent incident in Jammu & Kashmir. The 1990s witnessed large scale fleeing of a section of Kashmir residents to Jammu, Delhi and various other parts of India. Incidents like the kidnapping of Rubia Syed (daughter of the then union minister), the siege around Hazratbal shrine for more than a month etc. shook the entire country. The intrusion and consequent military action at Kargil created fresh tensions at the boarders. All these contributed in making Kashmir a less favoured tourist destination for many years.
As the Air India flight descended to the Sheikh ul Alam Airport, the beautiful view of Kashmir valley rekindled the spirit to explore. Mr Basheer, the driver was waiting for us outside the terminal. A good driver can make the trip a lot happier and comfortable. I decided to have him for the entire week while I was in Kashmir. We conversed throughout our trips about the life in Kashmir and I came to know about the ‘ground realities’ that are not reported in any printed text. I am thankful to the warm hospitality and assistance of the officials of the para military force. My interaction with them gave me enough insights about the difficulties they faced and the crucial role they played. I was enriched by my brief interactions with persons from other fields viz. Senior Police Officers, businessmen, Kashmiri ‘pundits’, traders, hawkers etc. (More on this later!)
Here are some snapshots:
|(He is not a Kashmiri. He is a malayali fakir I met when I stopped for tea at a street side dhaba)|
|I attended the Sunday Mass in this church at Srinagar|
I have following observations based on my very brief visit to Kashmir:
a. The people of Kashmir are peace loving and they are happy to have a peaceful and secure life after years of conflict and violence. Normal life has returned everywhere and it is like any other part of the country.
b. The government needs to focus on the young people of Kashmir. Though they are capable, enthusiastic and ambitious, they feel that they do not have enough opportunities to excel. This has resulted in disappointment and anger and might lead to rebellious behavior against the system. Unless concerted efforts are taken to establish educational institutions of high standard and to create appropriate employment opportunities, things might go out of control. In such a scenario, they would become vulnerable to terror outfits.
c. Tourism potential of Kashmir is grossly underutilized. Areas where people visit such as gardens, lake, snowfall locations etc. have not been developed properly. Museums and parks lacked maintenance. Kashmir can achieve rapid economic growth through tourism. A comprehensive action plan needs to be formulated in this regard.
d. Many people are not happy with the way local administration is functioning. They are disgruntled about the infrastructure and the widespread corruption in governance.
e. Kashmiri people feel discriminated when they reach the mainland for education, career or business. They say that they are seen with suspicion. It is necessary to make them feel that they are trusted, loved and respected.
Kashmir is an asset. It has a unique culture beyond the borders of particular religions. The people residing in Kashmir are affable, hospitable and patriotic. Visit Kashmir to have a wonderful experience.
Views are personal © Sibichen K Mathew
(E-mail subscribers of Cyber Diary may click on the post to get updated article, photos and comments)