When I was 11 years old I had the great chance to visit one such gem: Pahlgam and Dal Lake in Kashmir (these old family photos below do a great injustice to the beauty). I often wonder what they look like now, but understand in many ways it is unchanged. But now things are really changing.and will change fast.
Around that time the fate of the beautiful region of Kashmir and Jammu, the northern most region was also decided. According to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution (passed in 1949), this state, that had been a Princely state during the time of British, was given a special status, allowed to have rule itself autonomously (with its own constitution).Over the years details of this Article were changed as both India and Pakistan claimed large swaths of Kashmir.*
A few months ago the Modi government dissolved the special status guaranteed by Article 370, claiming that it has held back development in the region. Now the people are under Marshal Law, much like the era of the Emergency in India (1975-77). Beside media censorship and blockage of the internet, children (boys at least) are being separated from the families and other Human Rights violations are happening, and the people of the region have had no say in this decision.
Again, I understand that there are always some larger "interest" used to justify such policies. This is seen in various forms in every country, be it self-interest, national-interest, sectarian-interest, corporate-interest or the like. Usually the interests of the voiceless masses are not taken into account, and it results in a lot of suffering and fear. There are big power interests in this region (such as China) and it is easy to quickly condemn a nation for trying to maintain security and vie for power. The politics and economics of the matter I will leave for others to argue.
For now I just want to look at the human toll. I am simply asking you to be aware of, and feel the pain of others. WAIT! How can we possible feel the pain of those who suffer all over the world! We cannot hold all that pain in our finite beings. For this reason many decided to worry only about themselves or their own! "I am not my brother's keeper", let alone carer for strangers.
There is a lot to mourn in our day and age, almost in every corner of the world. Much to lament all over the God's beautiful creation. Some happen due to the most evil intentions, other are done blindly with no consideration of consequences. I feel for the place and the people. I know it has remained pristine, exactly because of its special status. The suffering of the people, as outside powers and interest fight over it. This has been going on for a long time. It is most aggravated right now.
It is interesting that as I get older, I have become less pessimistic. I do believe there is hope for those who are downtrodden. I do believe there is hope for the people of Kashmir and the beautiful land that it is.
"Like daylight, the Lord brings forth what is right,
And justice as the noonday" Psalm 37:6
It doesn't just happen, people must be filled with love, feel the pain, have a sense that we are all brothers and sisters, committed to truth and justice, persistent in prayer, and advocates for those whose voice cannot be heard.
* India will not allow a map of India that does not include Kashmir extending to its northern border.