A Kashmiri writer tried to visit his home. Then Narendra Modi intervenedby Iqbal Ahmed / October 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
I had planned to travel from London to Kashmir in August to celebrate Eid-ul Adha with my parents. Two months earlier, I booked my tickets to fly to its largest city Srinagar on 5th August, after changing at New Delhi. Friends and relatives warned me that I should put my visit on hold because they foresaw, after thousands of Indian troops were deployed to the Valley from July onwards, that a calamity was going to befall the region. I decided to try anyway.
I stopped over for a few days in Gurgaon, a city southwest of New Delhi, en route. During my stay a friend who lives near Lake Dal rang to tell me that foreign tourists in hotels and houseboats had been ordered to leave Srinagar by the security forces. I was still keen to go. In 2016, I flew into Srinagar during a 72-hour curfew. It took me exactly that long to reach my parents’ home, which was hardly 10 miles from the airport. But when I spoke to my mother on the phone from Gurgaon, she didn’t want me to visit while the situation was so dire.
I had also planned with friends in Srinagar to make a trip to the distant Himalayan valley of Gurez. I have always found its remoteness alluring. It is cut off for several months of the year due to heavy snowfall and it snowed there as late as June. For months, I dreamed of pitching a tent on the banks of River Kishanganga and breathing pure mountain air. But a relative pointed out it was insensitive of me to think of travelling through Kashmir to the paradise that is Gurez if all hell is going to break loose.
When I awoke on the morning of 5th August, I discovered that the phone lines in Kashmir had been cut during the night. (The communications blockade in Kashmir seems to have come full circle. Back in 1990, I had to travel 500 miles from Srinagar to Delhi to make an overseas phone call.) Travelling to see my parents was also impossible. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided to bifurcate Jammu-and-Kashmir and downgrade that state into two Union Territories. This thereby revoked Article…