Srinagar is located in Kashmir Valley and it is known it for its gardens, lakes and houseboats. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits. It is also known for the oft happening protests that happen after the Friday prayers every week. It is also the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir.
Recently I had an opportunity to visit Srinagar, with all what I had heard about the scenic beauty and the weather I prepared myself well for the visit. Srinagar is accessible via road and by flight, train services do not yet exist for the region due to rough mountainous terrain it is located in.
Once we landed in Srinagar, I pulled out my mobile to call my friend who I was visiting and only then I realized that my mobile sim which I had purchased in New Delhi would not work in Srinagar rather I would have to get hold of another Sim card. The reason upon enquiry was informed to be security measures.
There were no telephone booths inside the airport and I had to resort to requesting a taxi driver to allow me to make a call. As the ahadith inform us there is goodness in this Ummah, the young man allowed me to make a call to my friend who was on his way to pick me up at the airport.
Once on the road I realized that all the roads were dotted with uniformed men, some behind barricades and dark coloured bunkers formed the most prominent scene in the city. The houseboats and the rose gardens they said were located on the other end of the city.
The city centre was a bustling place with lots of handicraft and shawl shops. Due to the extreme winters the region experiences the shops generally remain closed during the peak winter seasons. The main source of income for many of the households in the Kashmir valley is either in the handicraft business or the Shawl business.
Many of the popular hotels in the city had been taken over by the military and transformed into military camps, the picture I had been developing in my mind for the past few days about Kashmir and its beauty all shattered as soon as I had come down on the road. Indeed the natural beauty existed and I still could feel the cool breeze on my face and my hands but it came attached with a strong resent.
The resent was to the occupying forces which had destroyed the lands beauty, its people and its livelihood.
On the day of my return we left for the airport 4 hours prior to our scheduled flight. The airport was not far away but there were check posts at the airport from a long distance before the airport. It took us almost an hour to traverse this short distance before we could enter the airport boundary. My host and another friend had accompanied me to the airport but as soon as we entered the airport boundary they got down informing us that only the passenger and the driver were allowed beyond this point till the airport.
Once inside the airport boundaries our car was stopped and it was checked by the security officers and they asked me to go with my luggage to a room adjacent to where our car has stopped. Here my luggage was screened and I walked through a metal detector. Once we were done with this security check we proceeded to the airport. At the airport I realized there was long queue which was due to another security check at the airport building entry.
Once through this queue there was another X-ray screening at the gate where my luggage was once again screened. After walking through another metal detector I finally was inside the airport. It had taken me almost 2 hours from my friend’s house which is a mere 10 kms from the airport.
I realized that at the Srinagar airport there was rule that you could not carry anything other than your electronic items and jewellery in your hand baggage, everything else was to go into the luggage. After some insisting I was able to convince them to issue me a boarding pass without having to put my only bag in which I had my laptop and some clothes.
After this I was to go through another metal detector and X-ray screening, this would be the third one since we had started. Laptop bags were subject to addition security check so my bag was manually checked and then only was I issued clearance.
I later on realized that those who had luggage were supposed to re-identify their luggage behind the airport building where the luggage is sorted out. If somebody did not identify his luggage his luggage would not be put on the plane.
After this long ordeal I moved into the waiting lounge. After a good 30 minutes of wait we were informed that boarding had started. To my bewilderment there was another security check, this time it was manual with security personnel manually checking the people and their hand baggage.
After 5 security checks which were humiliating at the same time tiring I moved into the flight to take my seat. Such kind of security measures were not even employed in Tel Aviv which has experienced hijackings and attacks in the past. Even after the 911 the US stepped up its security measures and they could be tiring and humiliating but not to this degree.
The demeaning security measures employed by the Indian government in Kashmir were a symbol of its occupation on a people. What I experienced firsthand in Kashmir was an ordeal that its population faced every day. They were the subject of the disgrace by the military every day, the constant feeling of being guilty and the fear of being kidnapped or arrested never to return home always remained. The military in Kashmir had been given unbridled power under the AFSPA which gave them the right to arrest & the right to shoot any body and they would not be questioned for this.
On the streets in the evenings and the nights a strange kind of silence would overcome the city as if it waited for something. I never understood its reason when I was in the city but once I had seated myself in the plane I realized much about it. I felt it was a wait for a messiah who would deliver the people from the oppression they had been through. The people in Srinagar had seen lot of oppression, torture, rapes & killing, Thousands of young men had been arbitrarily arrested with many who never returned home, thousands of women raped, thousands of woman widowed, some statistic told that over 14,000 unarmed civilians were killed in from January 2002 to January 2009 alone …only after experiencing a bit of what they experienced every day I felt what they felt.
I couldn’t do much for the people of Kashmir but then I promised to myself that I will work and do whatever is required to send the messiah to deliver them from what they are in. Islam I knew had the solution to provide them deliverance, Islam I knew had the just ruling system with the Khalifah at its top who would stand for the honour of his brothers, mothers, sisters and his sons, I knew he would send in his sincere armies to liberate them from this humiliation much like the Khulafaa of the past did, thinking of this I decided to write these thoughts which I end with the hadith of the prophet (Saw),
انما الامَامُ جُنَّةٌ يُقَاتَلُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِ فَإِنْ أَمَرَ بِتَقْوَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَعَدَلَ كَانَ لَهُ بِذَلِكَ أَجْرٌ وَإِنْ يَأْمُرْ بِغَيْرِهِ كَانَ عَلَيْهِ مِنْهُ
Only the Imam is a shield, behind whom you fight and you protect yourself with, so if he orders by taqwa and is just then he has reward for that, and if he orders by other than that then it is against himself