In November 1988 I met a little Kashmiri boy of about eight in a local bus in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir.
Unasked, he informed me in Hindi, “I’m Pakistani”.
I naïvely asked why he was visiting India.
He gave me an insolent look and said in a curious singsong voice in Hindi, “I will live in India, I will eat of India, but I will remain Pakistani!”
He surely didn’t come up with that himself. It even had a tune like a much-repeated jingle, the kind that you can’t help saying like it sounds on TV, like ‘washing powder Nirma, washing powder Nirma’.
And this was in 1988, about a year before the Kashmiri Hindu genocide.
I think the whole system on which Jammu & Kashmir runs is rotten from top to bottom, from the top person in government to indoctrinated kids like this. You don’t expect a fine yield if a wheat crop is affected by blight when young shoots are emerging; the grains will be nubbins. And it looks like it’s been this way with such children in Kashmir since 1947.
This was not all. On a sightseeing trip around town our bus once got stoned by a bunch of people. Another time, when the tour operator had stopped by a shop that sold silk sarees and scarves, we saw our bus suddenly lurch out of its parking spot with some of our group trying to scramble up its steps. We were still inside the shop. Local men were chasing the bus and pelting stones as the driver increased speed. The shop-owners hustled us to the back of the shop and hastily downed shutters. Then they called for a cab (or maybe somebody’s car), peeped out furtively and sort of smuggled us out into the car. We were too dazed to even ask what happened. These people might have been average Kashmiris protecting us – Indians from other states – the way the rest of India is now trying to protect Kashmiri students from angry, unhappy citizens baying for Kashmiri blood, or they might’ve simply been trying to protect their own property.
So you see, stone-pelting in Srinagar is nothing new. I saw it with my own eyes in 1988. Thirty years ago.
One evening there was an explosion in Lal Chowk in the city centre. Luckily, we were staying in the cantonment area in an Army guesthouse a few kilometres from downtown. We weren’t affected except for having to make a number of phone calls (by booking trunk calls using a land line, no cell phones those days) to our anxious parents and others who knew we were in Srinagar. I can only imagine how much anxiety families of army and CRPF men posted at Jammu & Kashmir live through.
Like most Indians I am deeply saddened by the killing of more than forty jawans by an Indian hireling of a bunch of subversive elements. Their modus operandi is simple: a psychopathic coward programs a less intelligent being to kill. Adil Ahmad Dar is described as a shy, introverted high school dropout with average intelligence. A perfect candidate for a fall guy.
Like an agent convincing a flop actor that he has hundreds of fans, his handler wooed him with dreams of success and fame, and a place in a mythical heaven. So he agreed to ram a car loaded with explosives into a convoy of his own country’s soldiers. Before doing this he recorded a little speech and put it on the internet. His fifteen minutes of fame. Poor little minion, a weak Indian kid whose diffident soul fell prey to a depraved person’s machinations.
Tourism is all that Kashmiris have. They don’t produce anything that we can’t easily get from elsewhere. For example, we get apples from Himachal Pradesh and we import walnuts from the US. And the wool for Pashmina shawls sold in souvenir shops in Srinagar comes from Ladakh, not Kashmir. But Kashmiris get most of their daily needs from the rest of India.
A genuinely important cash crop they grow is saffron. Indian saffron is considered the best, supposedly better than Iranian and Spanish saffron. Apparently saffron crops are currently suffering because of corm rot and a lack of water. A little R&D might help the saffron farmers of Kashmir, but who will set up a lab in a place like that?
When I visited Kashmir in 1988 I was advised to avoid buying saffron because what they were selling as saffron was actually a box of hair-thin strands of cardboard dyed red! What a perfect metaphor for Adil Ahmad Dar and his ilk.