Sorry, Kashmir Is Happy

9791.kashmir-1Manu Joseph makes the case that “a historically wounded people are ready to move on,” in Open:

Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building—the elite fight to preserve it. ‘Don’t forget,’ is their predominant message, ‘Don’t forget to be traumatised.’ They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the many atrocities of its military. This might be a long period of calm, but if the wound vanishes, where is the justice? India simply gets away with all those rapes, murders and disappearances? So nothing disgusts them more than these words: ‘Normalcy returns to Kashmir’; ‘Peace returns to the Valley’; ‘Kashmiris want to move on’.

Yet, all this is true. And for the regular people of Kashmir, who do not have second homes in North America, Europe, Dubai or Delhi, who have no choice but to continue living in Kashmir, this reality is not so disgusting.

Peace is designed to be fragile in Kashmir. Any moment, at the slightest provocation, its youth will be nudged by those who stand to gain from strife to erupt against the Indian Army, or militants may choose to stir things up to bolster the lucrative business of terrorism. But it is hard not to see that this is an extraordinary period of peace. A few days ago, Syed Salahuddin, chief of terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen, confirmed something, which Kashmiris say is common knowledge—that he has withdrawn all his men from Kashmir. According to Jammu and Kashmir’s tourism minister, in 2011 more tourists visited the Valley than in recent memory. It is believed that the figure was over a million. This winter, almost all hotels in Gulmarg, a skiing destination an hour from Srinagar, were fully booked. Zahoor, who is from Srinagar and works in Gulmarg in the winters as a skiing instructor, and who taught me how to ski, says he is enjoying the peace and hordes of Indian tourists and his newfound ability to earn a decent living. Also, in Kashmir, the political stakes in ensuring that the Indian Army does not violate human rights are so high that Kashmiris today have little to complain.