I thought of writing a long article about this, with quotations and lengthy speculations.
However, I pondered over it and the whole thing can be summed up in a single statement made by a local, which struck me so deeply that I just cannot get over it.
The locals, who consider the land their paradise.
And, rightfully so. Wouldn’t you?
Majid bhai was an ideal Kashmiri. Reticent. Religious. Tough exterior. Even rude.
But you take the initiative and start talking with him and you understand the simple straight person within the rough exterior. Someone who is tired of the curfews and stupid politics that results in misguided youth. Someone that is tired of bullets, the snow, and just looks to Allah for solace.
Once I was able to break through the rough exterior, I asked him
Majid bhai, aap Pahelgaun me ho. Pakistan k itne pas. Kabhi gaye kya Pakistan? (Majid bhai, you are in Pahelgaun, which is so close to Pakistan, did you ever visit it?)
I won’t deny it, it was a pointed question. The question had an underlying interest of wanting to understand where his allegiance lay. Especially with everything that we hear in media about the Kashmiris.
But his reply completely took me by surprise. Something that sums up the conversation I have had with every native in one simple statement.
Bhaisab, main kabhi India hi nahi gaya, to kya Pakistan. (Brother, I have never been to India, let alone Pakistan)
Honestly, there you have it. These Kashmiris are not the most accommodating people. It is not the most hospitable environment. However, they are just tired of political parties making an agenda out of their motherland, and all they now want is just peace. Something, neither the Indian government nor the Pakistani government can afford to give them.