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Kashmir: The Lost Shangrila

Kashmir is no longer what it used to be! The politics of hate coupled with the politics of greed has disfigured the valley.

Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.  Jan Morris

Kashmir has witnessed a cataclysmic change in the last couple of years. The unfavorable political conditions and other allied things are responsible for the same. David Devdas in his book ‘The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’ points out that: 2008, 2010, and 2016 are the three important points in the recent history in Kashmir’. With the abrogation of Article 370 on 5th August 2019, Kashmir changed from paradise to perdition. The valley remained paralyzed for eight long months in the backdrop of the abrogation.

Kashmir, as we know, used to attract tourists both National and International because of its majestic and mesmerizing natural beauty, its peaceful, serene and secure socio- political atmosphere.  Historians and travelogue writers have used many appellations to describe it. Someone called it ‘Paradise on Earth,’ Someone ‘Switzerland of Asia’; Someone ‘Solomon’s Garden’. Sir Allama Iqbal called it ‘Iran- E- Sagheer.  Josef Korbel in his book “Danger in Kashmir” called it ‘…a garden of eternal spring, a delightful flower bed, and a heart-expanding heritage for dervishes’. But these appellations and sobriquets have lost their sheen and significance because of untoward political atmosphere which Kashmiris have been experiencing from many years.

Kashmir Valley used to be the usual hangout for Bollywood actors. Many classical Bollywood films have their settings in Kashmir. ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ starring Shami Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore is set in here. Those were the days when Kashmir used to be an attraction for film stars. But at present hardly any celebrity visits Kashmir because of unrest. People from all over the world used to ease the humdrum of their life here. But unfortunately at present, Kashmir in itself has been turned into place of fear and dread. The utopian Kashmir has changed into a dystopian place of the sort. The valley has literally been changed into “Orwellian Oceania” where people are under the surveillance of ‘electronic eyes’ of the govt. ‘Pardise on Earth’ sobriquet has been replaced by the linguistic descriptives like: The Land of Half Mothers, The Land of Disappeared Persons, The Land of Pellet Blinded People, The Land of Unrest, The Land of Curfew, and The Land of continuous Lockdown. Who is responsible for this? The answer is obvious and understood. The regional mainstream political parties alongside the Central governance stand jointly responsible for the gruesome political atmosphere of the valley.

The regional political parties have always betrayed and hoodwinked innocent people of the valley with their false and dishonest promises. Most of the Kashmiris hold the mainstream political parties and their associated political stooges accountable for the maiming and infliction of the innocent people of the valley. People claim that the major regional political parties have done a lot of damage to the valley and its people.

The conflict and disturbance in the valley started when Maharaja Hari singh agreed to accede to the Dominion of India in 1947. He signed the document only for three things: Defense, Communication, and External Affairs. But instead of safeguarding the valley, the rulers started the colonization of the State. The Indira- Sheikh Accord of 1975 and all other accords following it have all been nullified on the fateful 5th August 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated by the Central govt. without any regard for the Document of Accession or any other accord. The State was bifurcated into two Union Territories forcibly.  Regional politicians who used to sing the songs of the Centre were imprisoned. Prior to the abrogation of the Article, these politicians of the valley used to befool people through their political rhetoric and chicanery. But now their bubble has bursted and they are sheepishly lamenting about it.

The abrogation of Article 370 and the installment of new domicile law in the valley are meant to change its demographic structure. Every decision with related to the valley is taken by the majoritarian party in arbitrary manner. Kashmir is a kind of colony at present. The massive   military deployment in the valley tells us so.

Kashmir is no longer what it used to be! The politics of hate coupled with the politics of greed has disfigured the valley. Last year when the abrogation plan of the Article 370 was on cards, the State government issued an advisory to the tourists for leaving the State, citing security reasons and apprehension of terrorist attack. The then governor was falsely telling the people not to believe rumors about the Article abrogation. His coaxing proved false and dishonest later.  At that time tourism season was at its peak. Amaranth Yatra was going on. The government let the cat among the pigeons by the announcement of advisory to tourists and yatries.  This gave a permanent jolt to the tourism of Kashmir. Tourists, I apprehend, will no longer dare to visit the valley again.

Kashmir and Kashmiris have always been oppressed through Ideological and Repressive State apparatuses. Kashmiris have been made to believe about the things falsely. Both State and Central government machinery is responsible for the same. Kashmir no longer attracts tourists. In the past, tourists from all over the world would visit Kashmir, but now because of frequent ‘Hartal and Curfew’ imposed by the government has dwindled the number in the count of the tourists. Kashmiris have been forced to adapt with curfew, Internet blockade etc.

Kashmir was once an oasis for the tourists, but now it has been turned into a dystopian land.  Mountains of the valley are still mesmerizing, waterfalls are still bewitching and natural beauty is still enchanting. But people have lost the serenity because of the conflictive political atmosphere. Some of the tourist places in the valley that used to be the major attractions for travellers have been captured by the forces. Nobody dares to visit such places now for the fear of their lives. This is how the Hiltonian Shangrila has transformed into the valley of the absolute ruin and dread!

Postscript: They make desolation and call it peace

By Bilal Ahmad Dar

Bilal Ahmad Dar is a Research Scholar at the Department of English, AMU, and can be mailed at: bilalbismil89@gmail.com

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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