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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 11:28 GMT
Impressions from Kashmir war zone
Indian troops have been fighting an insurgency by Islamic militants in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989. Here, a young Indian soldier who has just been stationed there reflects on the sadness of war.


First impressions - I land at Srinagar after waiting for six hours for the flight to take off.

Indian troops in Srinagar
Indian troops are highly visible on the streets of Srinagar

It's winter here, that's why the delay, but still I'm excited. Almost think of it as my destiny.

I don't believe in destiny, that's why almost. The air is cold. Bites me.

It's fresh, exhilarating. It's different. But I feel unusually happy. Wonder why?

There are vehicles here to receive us at the airport, and we drive back to our location.

Distrust

I drive through the city and I see people who wear clothes differently.

The women are beautiful. Not like the good-looking women down in Delhi, but really beautiful.

And it takes a decent amount of effort not to stare. But I manage.

The shadow of the gun looms large and suddenly I feel very suffocated

I am so enthralled by the trees, the streams, the hills in the far distance, the cold air, the snow, everything. But there is something else.

Every 50 metres there's this man standing with a weapon. In uniform. A soldier.

Every five minutes there is a convoy of army vehicles passing by with weapon-bearing, menacing-looking men, standing on top, looking down.

Eyes furtively searching for something. Anything.

The air is heavy and not free. The shadow of the gun looms large and suddenly I feel very suffocated.

The army is omnipresent. It's like darkness filling up a vacuum.

I don't think these people think of me as their own, the local public that is.

But since they have no choice they accept me (they have no choice). And I think, why is it this way?

Why is it that the place I think of as my own country, people that I think of as my own people do not really want me here?

Their eyes look at me with distrust, and resignation. And I want to get out and tell them that I'm alright.

'Another soldier in uniform'

Then I look at myself, and see myself in uniform and I see what they see.

soldier in argument
A Kashmiri woman argues with a soldier during a search operation

"Another soldier in uniform."

And I guess they are not wrong in feeling what they feel. And I feel very sad at the state of affairs.

I want to tell them that I am about as good or as bad as any of them, and I am not here to harm them.

Beneath the uniform I am just a young man in his twenties trying to find answers in life.

I also love the smell of freshly fallen rain on the earth, laugh with my friends, smile when a baby smiles, love a beautiful woman, enjoy movies and music and do all the normal things that anyone does.

I am not responsible for the state of affairs.

Then the question pops in my mind, who is?

There come a multitude of answers: the Indian government, the Pakistani state, poor leadership, mismanagement of affairs, rigged elections and many more.

Just history?

But all this is just history and we cannot do anything about it. The real reason for the state of affairs is us - you and I.

We are responsible for how things are and we alone can put them right.

There are discussions and more discussions on the solutions to the problem and I really do not want to get into any of that.

kashmiri children
Kashmiri children playing near the Line of Control
All I am saying is that it is sad that small children are not amazed any more when they see a weapon-carrying man around them - a militant or a soldier.

That if one is not home at night, the fear of never seeing them again sets in, that young teenagers grow up in an atmosphere of terror, never realising what it means to be free.

What I am saying is that I may be a soldier, but I am definitely not the enemy.

In the end, there is still hope. As we turn round the corner, we slow down. There are small children playing.

One of them, a small boy of five or six, looks up and waves at me. And he smiles. A genuine smile that only children have.

I wave back. He has not learnt yet that here you do not wave and smile at army men. There is still hope.

The soldier wished to remain anonymous. His account first appeared on the BBC Urdu service website.


If you would like to send a comment about this article, please use the form below.

Yes, it is indeed tragic that even after so many years of bloodshed no solution is in sight. even though it is a part of my country, India, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to visit Kashmir without any fear.
Abhishek, New York, USA

As much as I despise Indian soldiers stationed in Kashmir, this soldier finally gives me hope that not every single Indian soldier stationed in Kashmir desires to crush the sentiments of my nation.
Rizwan, USA - from Sopore, Kashmir

Insurgency in any place around the world is pretty much what is described in the essay. Normal people is bound to suffer, whether there is a freedom of their state or not. It is a few elites who wage wars and struggle to meet their needs. Think sensibily, what is there for Kashmiri to gain running away from India, the resurgent economy. Independent state is not going to better their lives, rather it will worsen the present poverty there. Currently, they manage to live only because Indian government spends billion of dollars to provide them enough to pacify their doubts. I think it is good for Kashmiri to realize that to have a better future they should wholeheartedly embrace India and we welcome them as always..
Ajay, singapore

The right start in this direction for the kashmir issue is to provide more autonomy to the Kashmiri people. If the kashmiris are more involved in the state affairs i think they can solve and elevate a lot of problems in Kashmir due to which it is easy for Jihadi outfits to recruit young people.
Muhammad A. Khan, Buffalo, NY USA

I am surprised that the bbc has posted such an overt piece of Indian propaganda on their website. Give me "Azad" Kashmir anyday where you dont have to worry about the army being an enemy!!..what a rubbish article!!!
ali khan, uk

The soldier must realise that these are not his people and it's not their land either. That's why people don't look indian, land doesn't look indian and people don't want to be indian. As i am a kashmiri myself i am from azad kashmir (pakistani side of kashmir) only i know what freedon means to kashmiris. we want kashmir to be indpendent state is first choice, second is with pakistan..the kashmiri people no way want to be with india. pakistani army don't kill any one and don't rape women either and they got to be given credit for that and i know that's a fact - he knows we all know it.!! i would suggest indians not to join army till kashmir becomes free from india!!!
shamraiz, redcar/uk

The young soldier has guaged the situation in Kashmir accurately. We the people of Kashmir have nothing in common with rest of India. We just want to be free! We are just helplessly being occupied by India...that's the reality..we are helpless people..with no choice but to accept the occupation of Kashmir , by India , through young soldiers like the one who has written this article. But as history has taught us ..we will have our day , when we will be free.
Abid Jan, Srinagar , Kashmir

I am sure majority poulation of Kashmir is not suffering as much as the minority hindu population which has been driven out of Kashmir by Islamist.May be BBC would also write "impressions of their life". Islamist separatist insurgency is not a new phenomenon.(Chechenya,Thailand,Xinjiang, Phillipines.etc). In case of Kashmir, insurgency is being carried out mostly by foreign militants sneaking from accross the border.
AB, India/USA

This is such a compelling first-hand account of the divisions that exist in Kashmir. I can understand what he means by mismangement of Kashmir by both Pakistan and India. My parents are of the "partition generation", originally coming from Lahore. The distrust of one another still persists between India and Pakistan even sixty years on. Whether there still is hope for Kashmir is difficult to say.
Rajiv Mahajan, New York, New York

Another proof that Indians really dont belong in Kashmir.If they sincerely wants peace,they can ask their government to hold referendums according to UN resolutions,but greed for land comes in between.No one can ignore the past,as the writer so naively wishes,especially if people have lost love ones,this is a struggle for rights.
Haroon , Canada

A wonderful way of looking at reality that continues to destroy hopes, kill people, and further the environment of distrust in Kashmiris. Has someone ever thought of how these people have managed to live a life with an endless wat at home? What is the future of children who are born in the mids of chaos, strikes, killings, bombings, and all other types of human-made calamities. Some regard Kashmir as "Paradise on Earth" but politics and lack of political will for a permanent solution has turned it near to a "Hell". Let's pray for the people of Kashmir who are the only victims for over half a century...just because they have demanded a right of their own "free will" from a country that considers itself as so-called 'biggest democracy' of the world.
Shamas-ur-Rehman Toor, Singapore

Kashmir, a piece of paradise have been turned into hell by Indian Army. I wish if Indian Govt. withdraws army and let people live like other free people.
MUNIR KASHMIRI, JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA

There are good people on both side but the core issue here is the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. They are being denied this right and when they took up arms to get it, rest of the rights were lost as well. Poor Kashmiri Nation!
Hasan Paswal, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

I admire both the courage of this soldier to serve in the army and his thoughtfullness about the situation there. Hopefully this situation will be resolved as India, Kashmir and Pakistan all move towards a better future.
Vikram Garg, Mumbai

WOW, Beautifully written. Governments of India and Pakistan are behaving in an immature way since last 15 years on Kashmir issue. India with its army and Pakistan with its Islamic militants have destroyed what is clearly the most beautiful place on the earth. As an Indian, I don't think Kashmiris will ever forgive Indians for what we did to them, But I hope they will.
Prasad , Memphis, United States

The soilder said all that above depicting himself very innocent very unaware and very ignorant of all that strange behaviour of the residents of the death striken land of Kashmir.But this very "innocent" soilder should know, when the very near and dear ones get disappeared ,bruetly killed , houses burnt, schools turned in to military camps,lands snatched ,honour and respect are omitted, then, people don't smile and soilders r counted as enemies.Then kids dont amaze seeing the weapons and no love grows and what grows is the only REVENGE in the shwdows of Terror.Oh innocent and ignorant soilder, tell the people of ur community plz don't raise the crop of Revenge and hatred and let's do something to heal these wounds.Give the people their basic right.Don't try to bug and crush the basic nature of humanity and let's grow the flowers of peace ,love, respect, honour, dignity and freedom for all, for Pakistanis, for Indians and for Kashmiris.
Saeed Ahmed, Mirpur (A.k! )

a very good article,lets hope the soldier is able to preserve his innocent view point and open minded attitude about kashmir and its people after he comes face to face with terrorist and suicide bombers. In a larger context the indian army should take steps to be more transparent and improve its image so that people are able to see the difference between people(terrorist's) who kill innocent people and people(like this author) who protect innocent people .I know this is easier said than done , but it should be arny's top priority
praveen, banglore,india

This Indian Soldier is young, romantic and full of hope with idealistic views. He has the capability to think and reason like the rest of us and utilizes it. Individuals like him, who are capable of raising questions in their mind and attempt to evaluate possible reasons for why things are the way they are, are the hope for peace and progress on the various barometers that are used to measure it. However there is nothing romantic about war anyway. I hope he comprehends the reality of the situation and that is the only thing that would save him from the other side and serve out his tenure. An ideal and romantic man is unpredictable and might find himself in a tight spot and might lead his colleagues down the wrong end of the gun. He is in a place where he will have to learn quickly the fact that there are people out there to kill him - there is nothing romantic about that. Hopefully he can see that and survive his tenure. Regards, Gaurav
Gaurav Khanna, Sunnyvale, USA

The great thing about this article is that it focuses on the plight of people living under these circumstances, we have argued for last 60 years and blamed each other for the current situation. The need of the hour is to focus on improving the situation for people living there. Think about future, think about present and think for our comming generations so they don't have to suffer throuh this.
Hassan, Muzaffarabad, Pakistan

I hope the Indian govt. eventually respond to the offers of demilitarization and independent Kashmir made by Pres. Musharraf. Otherwise, Kashmir really is a paradise lost.
Rehman Khalid, FL

I would like to tell this young army person that does he have any idea what the Indian army has done in Kashmir, or the so called security forces like CRPF or BSF, they are not security but a real threat to Kashmiri's. Does he have an answer how many women were raped by the army, how many innocent men killed in fake encounters and cutodial deaths. How many mothers lost there sons and wives lost their husbands, how many childrens became orphans ? all because of the Army and the other Indian forces, can he give me an answer. Why dont they leave Kashmir alone, why ???????
Malik, Srinagar, Kashmir

It is quite surprising to read such a trash report on the BBC website. It is below the high standards of the BBC, we have been witnessing for so long. The very first doubt regarding the authenticity of the report arises from the soldiers' anonimity. Even as it reflects the real picture of Kashmir today but the element of standard journalism is altogther missing in the report. It appears that this is a reporters personal account of things told in a soldiers' tongue, which is quite unlikely to be told by any uniformed person here. I am also from Kashmir and I also witness all this every now and then. But so far I am yet to confront a trooper or even a pro-India politician to concede to the worng-doings of the soldiers. Regards
Amanullah Matto , Srinagar

This is the answer to the views of this soldier. I was 17 when the voilence started in kashmir, it was a peaceful city. when i was in school all my friends supported the Pakistan cricket team , but i was the only one in maybe whole school who supported the indian team all the times, but a sixer from miandad ruined all.i was loyal to india. but when the voilence started i saw my friends being hurled out of their houses and shot in a line by the indian army, i saw indian army raping women. when a shootout took place the indian army used to see black hair onthe heads and shoot and the result thousands of young men gone. when army came in our house i jumped from 2nd floor and ran for my life or else i would have been also not writing these comments. after a some years of voilence, i left kashmir and started working in delhi, but only to encounter hate from people against muslims. as years have passed i see the world turned against muslims, my thoughts also changed . things have turned global, everyone has a right to defence if! the enemy likes or hates. so Dear solider what do you expect from local kashmiris after thousands of massacres of inocents. you may be very nice but for a local Kashmiri you are just a change of duty of guards or anti insurgency strategy. You do not decide kashmir affairs all those who do are making the local population suffer. you have seen the people on the road not in the daily life what happens in their homes. And think the 20 long years gone i am 37 now with children, and have seen friends , neighbours ,relatives vanish by the brutal voilence. how do you expect me to greet you or any other kashmiri and how do we see at you.
FAYAZ AHMAD, Delhi

very romantic self defacing appeal but least aware of the geopolitic issues. How did bbc really ensure that the author is indeed a positioned military person?
Akshay, salt lake city, utah

Many years ago I met militants involved in the conflict accidentally during a holiday and most of them did not want to fight or die. Many even shed a tear for the ones they killed because they felt that their enemy was somebody's son/father - but they had no choice. their land was occupied and promises made broken.
N. Anwar, London, UK

The start of the article is not right in terms of fact that Indian troops are fighting insurgency by Islamic militants. The people who started this movement were and are pure secular people, like jammu kashmir liberation front (JKLF) - much later the parties with the islamic background joined the movement. We should keep the facts clear.
kamran, Dubai, UAE

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