My trip to Kashmir was supposed to be a banal one, visiting the Kashmiri friends I made in an earlier trip to Nepal. I had also meant to visit the cashmere weaving village that they deal with, to take photos and videos that we could use for our mutual online store, Ethical Cashmere.
But somehow, a quick and pleasant trip became – I guess you could say – my first experience of the travel genre ‘dark tourism’. That was the year that the Indian parliament voted to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomous status. In anticipation of popular resistance, the state was evacuated of visitors before the vote, and even more soldiers poured into what was already the most militarised region in the world. A lockdown was imposed, telecommunications cut off.
However, after the vote, the Indian government was anxious to prove that it had not acted to punish the civilian population of Kashmir for their protest. Travel began to be approved, in time for when we had planned to go.
Frankly, it did not feel very safe for two Muslims to travel through Delhi at the time. But, we chose to go anyway. And these are the stories that I returned with.