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KASHMIR : A SOLDIER'S REFLECTION




A soldier's experience in Kashmir involves a unique blend of duty and the breathtaking beauty of the region while serving in a challenging environment. They witness the mesmerising landscapes and rich cultural heritage, creating a complex tapestry of emotions and memories. Kashmir is one of the most beautiful frontlines in the world, a vista of mountains and saffron fields, ancient temples and mosques, but this state, roughly the size of Ireland, has brought India and Pakistan to war three times. The Muslim majority has long campaigned for independence, with an armed insurgency breaking out in the late 80s. India exposed Pakistan as stoking violence with bombs and bullets. In almost a fortnight, Indian Kashmir became one of the most heavily militarised regions in the world. Today, there are 700,000 troops and police in the state. In 2011, when insurgency was at its lowest, security forces faced new challenges of a new generation only equipped with rocks. It is claimed that these stones were also funded and organised by terror groups in Pakistan, causing great loss of life and property.

 

"Jannat-e-Kashmir," Paradise on Earth, is how everyone thinks about Kashmir. It has even more natural beauty than the eyes can fathom. With lakes, mountains, meadows, and snowfields, Kashmir indeed offers a view that imprints on one's heart till the time he lives. Its beauty is all around as far as the eyes can see. Apart from that, there is a lot of culture that it provides in the form of traditional Kashmiri meals, music, and dresses. The northernmost of India was once a state now converted to two union territories - Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The valley of Kashmir is in bloom, and every corner of it is a picture postcard. Starting from a Shikara Ride in Dal Lake, the largest freshwater lake, i.e. Wular Lake. Gulmarg, 'The Meadows of Flowers,' offers a cable car high into the mountain for a truly surreal view of the mountains, a sight to behold. Kishtwar National Park, for wildlife lovers, has snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, and many more rare species. The state has many hill stations - Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Anantnag, and Baramulla - which offer a view of jaw-dropping Himalayan ranges.


A soldier posted in Kashmir faces many challenges, harsh climatic conditions in northern Kashmir, sub-zero temperatures during peak winter, snow-capped posts, and duty at night just to maintain sanctity and prevent infiltration. In northern Kashmir, a high-altitude area, a soldier faces many weather-related issues like chilblains, high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPO), high-altitude cerebral oedema (HACO), and many more. Giving duty in sub-zero temperatures and bone-chilling strong wind requires courage and mental strength. Away from family, missing festivals and many more important family events is part and parcel of the life of the soldier. Deployed on winter cut-off posts, drinking water from melting snow and cooking food together, he shares a special bond with his counterparts on that post. Taking care of himself and his juniors, a soldier is trained for years to just serve in a terrain like this, where weather and operational tasks both provide an equal challenge. The true grit, worth, and values of soldiers are tested here in a true sense. On one hand, he does sadbhavana activities to win the hearts and minds of local people, and on the other, he is ready to curb any hand that rises against the beloved motherland. After the abrogation of Article 370 from J&K, integration and development of the state. Article 370 was exploited by Pakistan to support separatism, terrorism, and insurgency in the region. The decline in violence, about 50 percent after 370 was abrogated; improved economic development, enhanced infrastructure, and increased tourism.

 

Kashmir is known as paradise, so beautiful yet it became a graveyard for many soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty. A big question arises for the youth of Kashmir; they have been radicalised and brainwashed by the neighbouring country and some terrorist organisations, whose ultimate aim is to spread unrest in the region. The conduct of soldiers in the region is impeccable but still faces agitation and distress at times by the local people and sometimes with armed terrorists disguised in the form of local people. In complete service of soldiers, he should be given a chance, at least once, to serve in the hostile yet beautiful region to know the dynamics of the area. The experience and memories one gets here will be carried with him throughout his life.

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