Reclaiming Heaven from Hell
The state of Jammu and Kashmir located in Northern India on the border with Pakistan, has seen communalism between Hindus and Muslims, riots in the streets, acts of terrorism, corrupt politics and war for the past decade. This beautiful area, kissed by the peaks of the Himalayan Range, has a history of being a place that inspired artists and philosophers, a place that religious thinkers came to live and die, and as Rosa Bal Tomb proclaims, this included Jesus. Many refer to Kashmir as “Heaven on Earth,” especially when floating around on colorful shikara boats watching the sunset over the old Red Fort above Nigeen Lake.
The tourist industry that used to be one of the economical back bones of Kashmir h as all but fallen apart given Kashmir’s recent political history. Kashmiris still trying to survive within this war zone now have to battle with an extra economic burden on top of the problems war and conflict already carry. Justice is only carried out to those who can afford to pad the right pockets and corruption and abuse of power is an all to common occurrence. Separatists within the state are battling over what is to come for the future of Kashmir. Ever since the British redrew the border lines of India, Kashmir has been fighting an identity complex. Some would like Kashmir to continue with it’s status as an Indian state, keeping things how they currently are. Others parties are more interested in linking Kashmir to Pakistan, arguing that the people, the religion, and the culture, are more akin to Islamic Pakistan than to India. Still there are some purists who would like to see Kashmir succeed from both of these countries and become it’s autonomous country, joining together the other half of Kashmir that lies in what is now Pakistan.
This tangled web of politics, history, and religion that has turned what was once a”heaven on earth” into a dangerous and volatile environment. But there is hope. The people of Kashmir refuse to let politics and conflict define their life. Violence and corruption are starting to see signs of retreat and people are beginning to see the possibility of a life at peace. Kashmiris want to return Kashmir back to the place it was before, to a place of study, reflection, insight, inspiration, and beauty. For all Kashmiris, there is this hope.