(Disclaimer: All this is a work of fiction. I have simply made it up. If anybody is hurt, I apologize.)
1. On the very first day, I learnt there was a Kashmir Bandh organized by Geelani against the Kousar Nath Yatra. What sort of secularism and tolerance is this? Apparently they are doing it to protect the fragile ecosystem there :-)
2. During a dinner in Pahalgam, the restaurant was playing Pakistani TV channel showing some political news of theirs! I suppose we as Indians would be more interested in our politics than some other country’s. And mind you, Pahalgam is not some far flung interior area in Kashmir but a major tourist destination.
3. Had a dinner with a friend’s friend who is a rich Kashmiri and has done all his education in ‘India’ (actually rest of India). He owes his entire career to India. We talked about how staying out helps in developing a perspective and getting away from narrow mindedness. So expected him to be more sympathetic and reasonable. When the topic came, he began by saying there should be a political solution which was encouraging for me. When asked further what sort of a political solution does he see, he said ‘referendum’!! (referendum on whether kashmir should be a part of india or not!)
4. While passing through an area where they made cricket bats, saw some posters of Shahid Afridi and other Pakistani players for promotional purposes! I know admiring foreign players and that too Pakistanis and also watching Pakistani TV is no crime, but when it comes to Kashmir, we can’t be ostriches, can we?
I last visited Kashmir in 2002 when terrorism was high. Kashmir was impoverished and one could see security forces everywhere. But this time things were completely different. Nice houses, smooth roads, prosperity clearly visible in the valley. Security personnel also were rare. I thought all these years of peace and prosperity (because of India) would have changed the outlook and made them see the benefits of sticking with India. I used to think economic development weans away a person from separatist tendencies, but looks like I am wrong :-(
Also clearly, we can’t afford to withdraw our forces from there – not yet!