First Published in The Wire, India (shared almost 4,000 times in the first few days). Click link below:
Republished in Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English language newspaper. Click link below:
"I have been visiting Kashmir since my childhood. Over the years, the valley has taught me many hard lessons about the world. With my early trips to Kashmir, the terrain between history and reality blurred. It was the first time I realised that tragedy was not a foreign country. Its proximity was too intimate and too intense for me to ever return home again to that feeling of comfortable distance. I learnt how most of the world’s greatest crimes are executed without fuss in darkness and silence. I learnt that pain can bleed into the most beautiful things and great horrors are inflicted in the name of flags. I discovered that childhood is not always innocent, that news is not always the news, justice is never passive, laws aren’t always intended to protect, just as terrorists are not always terrorists and freedom fighters are not always freedom fighters.
Though I have travelled all over the world, I keep returning to the Valley. Sometimes I ask myself why. In spite of the many forces that vie to possess it, for me Kashmir endures as one of the most wretchedly forsaken places in the world. Though fiercely desired, the people remain monumentally unloved. Perhaps that is why I love the valley so much. Approximately 135 km long and 32 km wide, it is the site of the world’s largest and most intransigent conflicts. There are no exact figures of the dead, but by any account they number in the tens of thousands, whether a low estimate of about 20,000 by the Indian government to around 100,000 by those living there. Thousands are simply missing, many more displaced or exiled. Few know much about the lives of the soft-spoken people that dwell there, where curfews, torture, rape, detention without charge, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and mass graves have simply fallen into a way of life. In Kashmir, there are no hydrocarbons or diamonds buried in the soil, just roses and apple trees. And corpses. [to continue click link to full article here]"