My endeavour to seek on my own, the reality of Kashmir started in July 2010 when “Kashmir” exhibited in the third consecutive year,its own blend of summer violence that dominated television news channels around the globe, fresh after my last set of Human Rights exams in Delhi, I had decided it was time to head back home. As I sipped the last bit of coffee at the airport lounge, Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi, phone calls from family, friends and associates in Srinagar made certain that the quit Kashmir movement 2010, by mainstream separatists was at its boil and especially after the Indian Army staging a flag march to maintain order in Srinagar city, was swiftly building momentum. As I switched off my phone while boarding the jet, I knew from my previous visits to the valley, that Srinagar would indeed not be the most welcoming destination, atleast not this time. Overhearing fellow travellers on the flight, that a curfew had been imposed in Srinagar that very afternoon, did not make me feel any lighter, it was a short sixty minute flight in which I practically did everything from listening to music, watching a lame show on the monitor, randomly checking the GPS, Well I guess not all intents are fulfilled, I was still thinking about the journey back home, when the announcement from the captain on the public address system said that it was time to land. As we landed at Srinagar airport, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon with a pleasant wind blowing across the immaculately valley, but one the thing in particular that caught my eye, was the immense paramilitary presence at the airport, which is quite usual with Srinagar, but this time, they seemed ever so on the alert. Rushing past baggage claim and security I had finally made it outside, it was home turf but recent events in the valley clearly stated, it had become everyone’s playground. Everyone claps a beat in this part of the world, and those that have suffered, have their own stories of grief and anger. I was greeted at the airport by Junaid* a childhood friend, who was courageously kind enough to hitch me a ride home in the curfew`ed city. After exchanging warm hugs and salaams, we loaded my baggage in the car trunk and were on the road, as we drove out of the secure and heavily guarded vicinity of the airport, the deserted streets of Srinagar once bustling this time of the year with the tourist season and civil movements, were clamped shut with police patrols and pickets at regular intervals.
Junaid was continuously talking about his travel firm that he had recently started, and how he had planned to buy a new car before violence broke and business in Kashmir came to standstill, it was then, when I was peering out the window that I noticed a rather intriguing graffiti on the wall as we zipped passed, it was the first sight of this conflicting agenda, it was a message to India and it wrote “Azzadi (freedom)”. We passed many such write ups on the walls along the road, it was written on the road with paint and on black banners of protest, later I collected that there were reports of it even being written in blood at some places.
This was not random writing; it was indeed a movement, a movement that could bring Kashmir to the frontline of Indian politics and leave India-Pakistan relations for the cats, a simmering debate that feeds on human blood and emotions. A conflict so entwined in its roots that the best failed with a solution. After three months of indefinite curfew, hartals and protests, that snatched souls of more than eight five (85) young in three months. We still wait, watch and hope that Kashmir finds its fair share of peace.
In this series of articles on Kashmir, I have been stationed here in the valley, almost throughout the turmoil and circle of violence. With a stronger sense of hope, willed courage, overpowering emotions and ground facts, I bring to you a side of “Kashmir” which stands invisible to many who collect the issue, just like a usual news flicker on the television channels or like a tab of solidarity in the print.