Cross border conflicts and terrorism have led to wars and also turmoils at the border. In the politics, the people of the region have lost their lives. Their education, work and normal life has suffered. Even in a city like Srinagar, there hasn't been much growth. It looks like a place which has stopped in time. It is devoid of modern structures and other infrastructure. The schools are at the mercy of trouble makers. These trouble makers could be internal, driven by political interests or gullible jobless youth lured by terrorists in the name of religion. But can't these youth see that if these cross-border terrorists were islamic, they wouldn't kill innocent people and also Muslims from their own country?
Many Kashmiri students have lost precious study years in unnecessary conflicts and curfews. Even syllabus across schools was not found to be consistent when I compared books of two kids from the same class studying in different English medium schools. While one studied in a local English school, one went to a convent school. But convent English schools have the same syllabus as non-convent schools across India unless they follow a different board. Only a few extra-curricular activities and non-curriculum subjects differ generally in our parts of our country. Urdu is main the compulsory language in Kashmir. And Kashmiri/ Urdu is compulsury in school. It will be surprising to know that the current generation speaks less of Kashmiri and more Urdu. With exposure to television, the Urdu is more inclined towards Hindi now. Two Kashmiri youth with same education background cannot be compared, as they follow different syllabi. This can cause problems while going for higher education. The J&K University campus is huge and beautiful and a hope for the future of the young Kashmiri. The people are fed up with constant troubles and want their children to be educated and settle down well in life.
The trouble makers keep instigating youth with negative propaganda of Muslims being ill-treated by non-Muslims in India. One such instigating video was a reason for David Hadley too for attacking Mumbai 2 years back! Indians are shown as enemies of Kashmiris. The present day Kashmiri, who is exposed to media is aware that India also houses many Muslims, who are just like them. Hence, they do not want to be part of any dirty, instigating politics.
The businessmen of Kashmir sell their artifacts and cloth in Indian cities, especially Mumbai and Bangalore and make money. They want to be part of Indian cities and widen their business horizons. In the Srinagar-Bangalore flight, you will find a lot of Kashmiris as Bangalore is a preferred location for Kashmiris due to the the cool climate of the city (which they are used to!). You will come across Kashmiris having stalls in Colaba (Mumbai) too. These people are fed up of the constant troubles in the valley which will affect their business. Many of them have never been to Pakistan or have any interest in the place. These people, who want their business to prosper, do not want trouble in the valley. They want peace. And they are happy to belong to India.
There is a small section of people, who favour Pakistan, for reasons known to them. Maybe they are instigated by certain political leaders, projecting Pakistan as their Islamic brother. But these ill-informed section of Kashmiris, are not fully exposed to Pakistani culture or politics. Nor do they know how Muslims co-exist without much bias with their non-Muslim brothers in other parts of India! A few biased people are there in all parts of the world, though! And its not that India is filled with Hindu-Muslim issues. Like any other country there are several issues. Recently we heard of honour killings due to people of the same 'gothra' marrying each other! And this is not even remotely between two religions! India is much secular than most nations, inspite of having a varied cultural mix of several religions and castes within them! It was shocking to me when a site on the internet compared the 'Kashmiri struggle' with the struggle of Palestinians in Isreal. This is definately making the age old conflict and struggle of tha Arabs in their own land and the atrocities suffered by them seem small! Do the people who put up such content even know the history of Israel or what's actually brewing there?
Then there is a section of people, who continue to call themselves separate and unique, having nothing to do with India or Pakistan. These are people, who do not like Pakistan but at the same time have suffered in some form or the other due to insensitivity of the Government of the State and also due to atrocities committed by our very own military. Due to the nature of trouble in the area, there is army stationed in many parts of Kashmir. Though I haven't seen it, I've heard two people known to me talk about army atrocities. This is a possibility as there are bound to be black sheeps who take advantage of their power everywhere. I've heard instances of unnecessary searches being conducted on people. But searches are part of a place surrounded by trouble. In fact everyone coming back from Srinagar airport is subject to almost 3 detailed security checks. But this apart, some armymen do act rough with simple local people and have subjected them to some insulting moments, which have stayed in youth memory resulting in hatred for the Army and the Indian Government. This is often used as advantage point by trouble-makers to instigate youth. While the trouble makers have not been harmed much, the victims themselves were subjected to search and curfew and police firing! What Government needed to do was show some sensitivity towards the civilians of the land earlier, which might not have resulted in the situation which has come up now. The same is the situation in North-East. In fact, in North-East people are subject to more checks by Army as they move across places. This is a personal experience on my visit to the place several years ago, when my Dad was posted at Guwahati for a short while. As you move from one place to another, people travelling in private vehicles are subject to gruelling and inspection. We used to get through with RBI ID card though. But the locals are not so lucky! In fact, the North East has so many terror outfits from within tribes and native areas, that the situation is more tense there. You can guard your borders against outsiders, but when an internal person betrays you, you're caught off-guard! This is the difference between the situation in Kashmir and North-East. Sadly, North-East problem does is never taken seriously as it is internal and no outside factors are directly involved! The same is the situation of people living in places which are the target of Naxalites and Maoists.
But all said and done, internal issues and Army and Government sensitivity can be taken care of. Involving Pakistan in the matter makes no sense as currently the economic situation in that country is really bad. Funny it is when an aid from Indian Govt was first rejected due to ego and later accepted on US's interference. Funnier still when a donation from Angelina Jolie is accepted without batting an eyelid ! According to Islamic nation, the earnings of an actor are considered 'haraam', ain't it? So much so for hypocrisy! But there is never a question of religious/ ego issues where calamities are involved. Indians (irrespective of their religion) have helped their neighbour Pakistan whenever it has been in trouble. We are always open in cultural exchanges, the artists from across the border freely work in India and are equally encouraged with artistes of the land, we have initiatives like 'Aman ki Aasha' (an initiative by Times group) for friendship between the countries. Apart from that individuals from India themselves do their bit for our neighbouring country as some Indians have their roots in Pakistan too. I remember a recent case, when a client (company) of ours was in a hurry for an RBI approval to send medicines worth several dollars to an NGO in Pakistan. Not because he/she was a Muslim, wanting to help a fellow Muslim, but because the company director's wife was a Sindhi (a Hindu) and was grieved to see her native land in trouble and wanted to send help asap. That's what India and Indians are all about ! But such good gestures are hardly reciprocated by Pakistan!
Several factors have made the people of Kashmir unhappy and caused unrest. In fact, the sufferings of the people came to the forefront in a tete-a-tete with some locals a year back! Till then I never knew how the locals felt or how grave the situation was! People have never a chance to know the true Kashmir since so many years, as it was considered dangerous visiting the place due to constant conflicts for several years, earlier. Only in the recent years, people have started freely going to the land as tourists. Yes, Amarnath Yatra to J&K has always been sacred for many Hindus. A few months after my visit to Srinagar last year, when a colleague of mine from Delhi had gone for a trip of the Valley, a local trader told him to pray for Kashmir's azadi. My perplexed friend (a non Muslim) told me about the same, but it did not make sense to him!
It's sad when people spread animosity between people of a land for their own personal interests ! What's happened to the people of Kashmir is sad for us all. But it's never too late to make a new good beginning! A beginning which begins with Peace and remains that way forever! Hope the educated and new generation of Kashmiris understand and make way for a better Kashmir. If there is happiness anywhere, it is definately in our hands!!!