Paradise Lost

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By: Rabiya Ghani

Kashmir is a beautiful place that has often been called a paradise. In the words of one of the greatest of Sanskrit poets, Kalidas, Kashmir is "more beautiful than the heaven and is the benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness." Moreover, the 19th century British Historian Sir Walter Lawrence wrote that, "The valley is an emerald set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet, where men are strong, and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness." (Das 1). Yet despite this beauty, the history of Kashmir is both long and brutal. The “paradise” is decreasing and now the area is entrenched in crisis to the point where some believe that there is no hope for that paradise to return (even though many have tried to bring it back). Most notably, Kashmir is the favourite place for the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, who are compared to estranged siblings, for fifteen years.
The chaos in Kashmir began after the end of British rule in 1947 when the maharaja of Kashmir signed an accession pact with India (an action which enraged Pakistan because it felt that the areas with a Muslim majority should be under their control). As a result, war ensued. That war resulted in the “Line of Control,” and each country claimed the territories of Kashmir. India controlled one-half, and Pakistan controlled one-third but the dispute did not end there. There are still battles, suicide bombing, killings, and the war is unceasing.
Walking through the streets of Kashmir, one is confronted with a constant stream of brutality: bombs going off, dead bodies resting in the dirt road. These images are ghastly and cause psychological problems such as stress, depression, fear, etc… but there is no stopping them. There is no calling for help in Kashmir. Misery, suffering, and living in fear of death are the daily emotions felt by the Kashmiri people. These sentiments are not limited to adults, for young children experience the trauma of the bombings and killings as well. Fayaz, a 12-year-old boy, saw his father killed in crossfire. From then on he refused to go to school for fear that he would be killed too. Fayaz has nothing to do with the Kashmir dispute, but he had to experience the effects of it nonetheless.
The people of Kashmir have no choice, but to witness these horrors and try to stay alive. In another example, a young man, Imran, was shot by Indian militants along with several other citizens of Kashmir for no reason at all. Imagine yourself as Imran walking on the street. One moment you are alive, then the next moment you are dead. You never know when you will get shot by the militants just because you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But why did these innocent civilians have to die?
There are sacrifices to be made.
But there is another side of the story: the militants. The militants said that someone in the mob started the crossfire so they fired back. Two different sides of the story; the truth will never be discovered.
The life of the Kashmiri people is so different from others. They don't live normally like us. They have to live in fear, they have to be cautious of their movements to make sure that they are alive. They see much more horrifying scenes than us, they see the dead bodies, they hear the bombs, they hear the cries of the people. The children have to face the fact that they cannot go to school due to constant danger. A young girl wants to write, but she can’t. A young man wants to go to college, but how can he walk in the middle of danger? Hate, violence, and death are in front of their eyes, and they are learning how to survive the hard way. Women have to face the danger too. The impending danger to their honor and respect is something that makes it worse for women, causing them to live more in fear. They have to face humiliation and being shamed by their families because they were raped. There is no justice.  “No man’s land” is the word to describe the Kashmir Valley. Tomorrow may never come, because they are not sure what will happen today. The scars will not be healed easily, they are rooted too deeply. Outsiders of Kashmir do not understand their pain, their suffering, their sorrows, and their emotions along with their scars. The ‘paradise’ of Kashmir Valley is disappearing, but the hope is still there, the hope that one day they will be free of the Indian oppression. We pray to Allah ta’ala that may the time come soon.