Maddy Crowell at Harper's Magazine:
For centuries, writers have romanticized the Jammu and Kashmir region, an eighty-five-mile basin that today encompasses the disputed border between India and Pakistan. From the window of my plane, I could see why: the Pir Panjal Range met the Greater Himalayas like a wrinkled white curtain, exposing a fertile hotbed of saffron fields, forested hills, almond and walnut groves, apple trees, apricot orchards, and rice paddies. At the airport, I was greeted with signs that read “Paradise on Earth”—a strange slogan for a valley that has seen three full-blown wars and hundreds of thousands of deaths since the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.
I hailed a cab to Dal Lake—a destination for tourists and the hub of Kashmir’s flailing economy. On the way, we drove through Srinagar, the capital that lies at the heart of many conflicts in India-controlled Kashmir. It was early May, and there were no traces of the protests that had broken out a week prior; only long-collapsed houses and red-dust-stained windowsills. The roads were flanked with ten-foot walls bearing water stains from last September’s severe flooding, which left around 300 dead.