” If a man could pass through Paradise in a deam,and have flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there,and if he found that flower in his hand when he is awake-Aye,what then?”-Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I managed to find this flower in my hand after my trip to Kashmir this year.Mughals aptly called Kashmir “The Paradise on earth” for its sheer beauty and magnificence. It is land of majestic mountains, surreal landscapes, beautiful valleys and pristine lakes.
Kashmir has one of the oldest documented histories in India.Kalhana’s Rajatharangini describes the list of monarchies and rulers who had ruled the state till the 12 century AD. Like all other states in Northwestern India, Kashmir has been administered by various dynasties like the Mughals, Durranis and Sikhs (under Ranjit Singh) and so on. Each has struggled hard to wrest control of Kashmir from its previous rulers. This struggle continues till date, just that these dynasties have been replaced with Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Republic of India and People Republic of China
Geographically we can divide the state of Kashmir ( or should I say J&K) into three regions namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.Physically and geographically these regions are similar to chalk and cheese as Jammu is on a plain in the foothills of the Himalyas,Kashmir is a valley surrounded by mountains and Ladakh is a barren desert. Demographically Jammu is heavily dominated by the Hindus, Kashmir by Muslims and Ladakh by Budhists.So it not exactly a surprise that these countries are staking a claim to the Kashmir pie.
Thanks to Mani Ratnam’s “Roja” Kashmir first captured my imagination way back in 1992 (Ironically Roja was not shot in Kashmir).Another short story from Hindi Text book called “Kashmir Ki Kahani “ strengthened my resolve to vist this paradise even further. So when I got a chance this year I grabbed it with open arms. The landscape was breathtaking .For me the entire journey was a like a sequenced dream and truly memorable. If I can use one word to describe my experience then I would use the word “Orgasmic”. The most memorable part of my trip was the Amarnath Yatra an amazing trek to the holy Amarnath Cave. Separate post is required to describe this yatra which I intend to write later.
People are very friendly and nice, but they view us as outsiders. I don’t think they are to be blamed for that as they have been subject to heavy duress for the past 60 years. I spoke to some of the Kashmiris during my trip and none of them were in favor of this state of eternal tension (My sampling is not representative and could be wrong too).From Pakistan’s point of view Jammu and Kashmir is only Muslim dominated state in the Indian Union and it was natural that it was ceded to Pakistan . India holds the cessation agreement that was signed with the Maharaja of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh hence she feels Kashmir belongs to her(strategically too India requires Kashmir as Delhi is just 10 hours by road from the State). For the people of Kashmir they are closer to Pakistan on an ideological level, but they need Indian for their economic growth. They need to decide on what they want and countries of both India and Pakistan need to aid them in that decision.Is it possible ? This is a million dollar question that needs to be answered.