While I was trekking at an altitude of 11,000 ft in the Shekhawas village near Pahalgam, a note was sent out for all tourists/trekkers at 10 PM on August 3rd, 2019 from the base camp to evacuate the valley and depart from Kashmir within a day for security concerns. This meant that our 7 days trek had to end in just 3 days leaving behind the magnificent nature! A message that cannot be digested by any nature lover who is determined to reach the peak for a breathtaking view.
This heart-wrecking message on that night was more than enough to give us all a sleepless night. But, the next morning we had to wake up at 3 am to trek a distance of 17kms in a mere 4 hours and return to the base camp so that we could reach Srinagar on time.
On our arrival in Srinagar, the situation was very discomforting as the rumors of a curfew had already spread a striking panic throughout the city. The Indian government was planning something big but taking enough measures to protect its countrymen. The talks of revoking Article 370 and 35A were being speculated.
We immediately rebooked our flights for the next day and laid calm in our hotels for that night. On the next day, we headed towards the airport at 3:00 am even though the flight’s departure time was 3:30 pm. I was lucky enough to get my tickets, unlike some people who were stranded outside the airport.
Turmoil inside Srinagar Airport:
Around 2:00 pm while we were waiting at the airport for our boarding to begin, the TV mounted on the wall near gate no.6 of domestic departures was turned on and tuned into the news channel mistakenly. The final decision of revoking article 370 and 35A was being telecasted. Just then we heard someone shouting out the slogan “Bharat mata ki Jai” and later a few more joined him. At the same time, a few Kashmiri people ranted “we want freedom” (Kashmir ki Azadi) in a roaring voice. It drew the attention of all passengers in the airport. Innocent people started walking away from that area fearing the circumstances that it could lead to. Later the police men arrived and took control over the situation within a minute but that roar and rage is something that would always remain etched in my memories.
To get you to the fact of the situation, the curfew was imposed in the midnight of 5th August 2019. Mobile network and Wi-Fi was cut off in the entire state. No arrangements of cash could be made as none of the ATM’s were operative and obviously, the online modes of payment didn’t work due to the network cut off. Considering our dependency on digitalization and the internet for practically everything it was a tough condition to be in.
This situation filled us with a moment of terror as none of us had experienced something like this before and hence for us, this face of Kashmir completely contradicted the title given to it – Paradise On Earth.
So, the question arises whether it was worth visiting this place at the cost of life? And to answer that let me take you back to my past two days in the valley.
Amidst the picturesque tall pine trees of the valley, passed the milky Liddar river in thin and thick streams with a lashing sound that got me spellbound. The lush green meadows, a variety of bird’s chirping, majestic horses and the generous people made me believe that this place is called the Paradise on Earth for a reason.
Words can never be enough to explain this feeling you get when you are encompassed with all this magic, I believe it is something that one needs to experience and feel for themselves.
The following video will give you a glimpse into the larger than life magnificence of this place.