The character of war in ‘heaven’

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70 uncertain years have elapsed since Kashmir has carried the burden of a fateful boundary drawn along religious lines. But it seems to me, that the skirmishing is no longer between two countries in the relentless pursuit of a state; it has now turned into a battle of pride. India or Pakistan, whoever conquers the heavenly Kashmir will undoubtedly boast about the glories of this untouched part of the world but beyond this, short-lived pride will be flaunted in the face of the defeated opponent and this might be the beginning of a new end. Since the assent of Kashmir to the Dominion of India, that triggered revolution, both Indian and Pakistan have demonstrated some reluctance in engaging third party mediators in the resolution of their perpetual dispute.

Who is rightful and who is not, time bore testimony already and I will not pen down defensive arguments in favor of whosoever as my eventual aim is not to blame people ,princes, governments, militaries or freedom fighters but to reveal to you another face of Kashmir, that can only be seen when we put aside our differences and come together as one.

In 2015, on taking cognizance of how Kashmir was turning into an unstable and volatile plateau as a consequence of endless conflicts, I dived deep into books, online newspapers and blogs to understand more about its history and tragedies.

Born in a modest Hindu family in the northern part of Mauritius Island, I grew up with the belief that religions do not make people, people make religions. I utterly believe that faith does not surrender to the custody of religions, it is something bigger than itself. I have been traveling across the lengths and breadths of different countries and each had thousands of things to teach me. On umpteen occasions, I have shared meals with Muslims around the same table. When I lost hope in life, I felt the gentle tap of Christians on my shoulder. When I felt the call of a new aspiration, my purpose was renewed by humble atheists. Whom they call untouchables, hugged me and revealed to me, on the edges of isolated streets, the values of a principled man.

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I hence found it difficult to believe that in the name of religion, people were ripping Kashmir apart; favoring greed of land over unity of people, and even more difficult to accept how blind people have turn themselves to peace. Deep inside, I wish we could all be shantivaadi (a system of ideas and ideals for peace) but the truth seemed distant from my wish. Being a shantivaadi requires peace to be at the crux of our choices.

I hence packed my luggage and travelled to Kashmir, in the late 2015, with a deep question in my mind: what is the character of war in ‘heaven’?

I reached Srinagar, the heart of Kashmir. The temperature betrayed the latitude of the Dal Lake at the wee hours of the evening. I thought the weather would be pleasantly sunny and the water would be lukewarm but the contrary was true; the climate was humid and cold. The lake was so quiet, as if it contained unrevealed secrets confided to it by travelers over the course of time. The little boats, known as shikaras, were carrying not only passengers and their luggages, but their stories and their dreams too. I dipped my left hand in the icy and crystal-clear water and quietly listened to the chirping of birds housed by the lake. Nothing else mattered at that moment except the splashing sound of the water as the boat strode through the lake, the air thickening with the fragrance of colorful flowers being sold by cheerful boatmen, the undisturbed houseboats forming the entourage of the lake and the thousand wandering thoughts of my mind.

Impressed by the breathtaking beauty of the place, I journeyed into Srinagar, Sonamarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam for several days. I interacted with the locals and jotted down their fears for the security of their families, their concerns for the education of their children , their patriotic sentiments for Kashmir, their aspirations for a renewed Kashmir. To my surprise, no mention was made about the never-ending conflicts between Pakistan and India. It appeared to me that the insecurity has become something that the locals have learned how to live with.

I pursued my journey and went on horse-riding in the wilderness of the snow-capped Gulmarg, where I filled my diary with the thoughts of the Kashmiris living in the simplest and most self-sufficient manner in the woods. I was approached by vivid children, smiling widely and wearing their colorful but partly torn pheran, the traditional outfit in Kashmir. They had the most precious gift to offer me: their love. One of them held my hands and asked me several innocent questions, among which one went direct to my heart: What does life look like on the other side of the border? I could not utter a word but I held his little hands firmer but yet tenderly in the hope that one day he finds out that if he cannot cross the border, his love can still cross.

I then toured to magnificent Sonamarg where I met some of the kindest people on earth and learned some of the profoundest lessons of life. I was treated with so much respect. I felt I was in a home away from home.

I walked into the valleys of Pahalgam, where I conversed for hours with different people and had lunch with a wonderful family. Though we were from different lands, of different cultures and our beliefs were in stark contrast, our humanity erased our differences and we had an enriching conversation about Kashmir, its challenges and its prospects. I learned that people weren’t scared of a darker tomorrow, they were concerned about a brighter today. They believed in finding happiness in the little things.

I walked for hours in quest of the war that the media speaks lengthily about but all I found was love. Though neither me nor the locals discard the fact that conflicts are there but there’s more to Kashmir and this is where we should divert our energies and attention to. The character of war was not made of hatred, it was composed of love that fell part in the passage of time and requires some stitching; not only though accords but through deeds. Kashmir can be reinvented but this dream can see the light of the day only if we put aside our differences, grow into more peaceful and tolerant beings, and most fundamentally, if we understand that to whom Kashmir belongs to is not as important as to accept that Kashmir first belongs to itself.

I walked for hours in quest of the war that the media speaks lengthily about but all I found was love. Though neither me nor the locals discard the fact that conflicts are there but there’s more to Kashmir and this is where we should divert our energies and attention to. The character of war was not made of hatred, it was composed of love that fell part in the passage of time and requires some stitching; not only though accords but through deeds. Kashmir can be reinvented but this dream can see the light of the day only if we put aside our differences, grow into more peaceful and tolerant beings, and most fundamentally, if we understand that to whom Kashmir belongs to is not as important as to accept that Kashmir first belongs to itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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