a letter to the English Kasmeri papers in Srinagar submitted 31/7/2012:
Isn’t it time Kashmir changed its approach to confrontation……
I am writing this short article as an independent traveler from Australia who has fallen in love with the beautiful Himalayas that form a backdrop to much of Kashmir. For the last 5 years I have been coming to India in what is our winter time namely late June and July. I come from a similarly beautiful part of the world namely Tasmania which is located in the southern most part of Australia and enjoys a similar climate to Kashmir although not as cold in winter and being in the southern hemisphere a 6 months time difference.
Being summer in India it didn’t take me long to realise that the best places to visit at this time of year was in the Himalayas and especially in those regions that were not two affected by the monsoons which predominate in the easterly regions of this country. So gradually I spent quite a bit of time exploring Himachal Pradesh , Laddakh and then finally Kashmir. For many years I avoided my wandering too much into Kashmir because of the emergency contingencies which waxed and waned from year to year. But all of that has changed for me these last two years when I realised that although risks did still exist from parties in armed conflict with each other that perhaps to a person such as myself they were no more dangerous than say crossing a road in Lal Chowk Srinagar.
Last year I traveled from Kishwar to Baital mainly by walking up the Merau River and passing through the towns of Sonder, Hanzal Yordu Inshen Sukhnoi before crossing the mountain range to Shesnag and falling in with the Yatra procession to Amarnath and finally finishing up in Baltal in a much exhausted but elated state. Somehow in the last couple of hours I mislaid my camera and that was my only disappointment with this trek. During the intervening year I resolved to go back to some of these places I had been through and meet some of those persons who had befriended me last year and of course take as many photos as possible. To that extent that objective has just been completed.
What I want to talk about now is how I feel about these people and how their lives have been restricted by this Contingency for so many years by all in control and not just the forces in the field such as the army, the J&K police but by the politicians and their bureaucrats.
It is really India’s Shangri-La by which I mean it is really a precious hidden valley which has probably escaped too much attention because it was shut down to tourists for perhaps more than 20 years because of the Contingency.
I often think to myself where would I like to be if I served in the police or army. Of all the places in India this would be one of the best places to be stationed. Why then would one want an emergency situation to disappear? During my visit last week I have been told by the Army that there are 6 terrorists operating in the area. ( the police said 4 terrorists or maybe it was the other way around). The villagers however seem to hold a different viewpoint and say there have been no problems for several years. To be honest I sort of lean to their viewpoint.