3 Jun 2008

Fear and Suspicion in Kashmir

The minute you land you can feel the difference. Actually when they asked to identify our baggage at the Delhi airport we were surprised. Who does that kind of stuff anymore ? That is so 80's.

The plane touched the tarmac and I was thrown back about five years when I went to visit Jaffna. Bunkers dotted the ground half hidden or wearing army camouflage.

People tell you things are now normal in K. Tourists are back and business is up. Well if that is the case what is with bored army personnel standing at every corner and bathroom entrance? Would that be normal in Delhi?

Actually deep down everyone is suspicious. The locals are suspicious of the sarkar. The sarkar is suspicious of both the locals and the militants. The militants are suspicious of the army. The army is suspicious of the locals. Visitors are suspicious of anything that moves. When asked the locals will tell you things are normal. The visitors of course claim that this is actually paradise but then after a torturous plane ride anything would be.

Why I compared this to Jaffna was that five years there was ceasefire in Sri Lanka then. But everyone was unsure. In such a situation it just takes a single bomb or an ambush to throw us back to the earlier times. What looks like there-is-nothing- wrong-here is actually we-are-bracing-ourselves-for-the-next-attack.

After many days of good food and hospitality we had developed an amnesia but as we returned the security checks at the airport woke us up again.

Yes things are becoming normal in K. But it is still a long journey.

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