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In the silence of Kashmir, hope fades and the houseboat sinks

Srinagar, India-Habib Wangnoo scanned the silver lake from the deck of an empty houseboat hotel, recalling his help to Mick Jagger when a rock star visited Kashmir in 1981. ) Out of the narrow and flat canoe.

Mr. Wangnoo smiled and recalled that Mr. Jagger spent most of the next two weeks on the upper deck of the ship. The lead singer of the Rolling Stones plays his black guitar and mixes with Kashmiri folk musicians as they watch the moonlight dance in the Himalayas.

Nowadays, Nagin Lake is as desolate and secluded as a grave, and there are even no rowers who usually row on the water. No tourists, no money, no hope.

Mr. Wangnoo said: “In Kashmir, from arrival to departure, the money from tourism is spent in everyone’s pocket, and everyone depends on it for survival.” “Now there is nothing.”

Kashmir (K​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ drive memory memory in Pakistan, it has fallen into a state of stagnation. The school is closed. The blockade has been imposed, lifted, and then re-imposed.

Once a hub for Western and Indian tourists, Kashmir has been addicted to it for more than a year. First, India introduced security forces to suppress the area. Then, the coronavirus broke out.

Soldiers are everywhere on the streets. The military bunkers that were demolished a few years ago have returned, opening up roads in many places. On the highway, soldiers stopped passenger cars and dragged commuters out to check their ID cards. This is reminiscent of the armed rebellion in the 1990s, when the Indian government deployed thousands of troops to suppress it.

The conflict in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, has worsened for decades. For a long time, armed uprisings have sought autonomy. Since 1990, thousands of rebels, civilians and security forces have lost their lives. India and Pakistan have waged two wars in the territory. The two countries are divided between each other, but both sides claim sovereignty.

According to Indian officials, now, as India exerts its power in the area, even calling Kashmir a disputed area is a crime-sedition.

In the darkest days of the conflict, Mr. Wanno’s family has been making ends meet. Through all this, visiting VIPs, young adventurers and Bollywood stars sunbathe on the top deck, in the floating lotus by the lake and the majestic porcelain garden.

This time, the seventh-generation business (like many other businesses in Kashmir that rely entirely on tourism) is at risk of bankruptcy.

The situation for other houseboat owners is worse. The history of these houseboats can be traced back to the British colonial era, which is a wise solution to restrict foreign land ownership. But the carefully carved cedar boats are in poor condition and many of them are sinking. The struggling owner cannot afford the new fill-in costs.

On the shore, people wore long woolen violet hand sanitizers, and traditional robe-like clothes covered them from shoulders to shins. Steam was steamed with hot saffron and almond tea and passed through a small pot of burning coals. Keep warm.

Many people said that political paralysis was the worst since the 30-year conflict in Kashmir, and people were forced to give in.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi deprived the region of autonomy and state status in August 2019 and promised that this move-canceling Kashmiris’ inheritance rights to land and work-will be in trouble for this The region unleashes a large number of new investments and opportunities.

Half a million soldiers came and implemented the most severe repression of Kashmiris.

The money has not arrived yet. People say they are more scared than ever. Political leaders from Kashmir’s wealthiest and most respected family were arrested and held for several months. They had reconciled Kashmir’s call for independence with India’s desire for unity.

Mohamed Mir said from behind his father’s counter in an empty pizzeria in the center of Srinagar, Kashmir’s largest city, “You can do this to pro-Indian leaders, you can do it to anyone. “

Kashmiris who try to anger the Indian government online are being hit by terrorism charges. Many people were detained.

Paramilitary forces suddenly appeared. They arrived at Khanqah in Shah-Hamdan, a Sufi shrine drenched with stained glass and paper pulp paintings, dedicated to the Persian saint and traveler Mir Sayed Ali Hamadni ) Brought Islam.

In the evening, soldiers guarded the 6th-century Hindu temple on Gopadri Mountain (Sankaracharya Temple), the highest point in Srinagar, and Musiqin’s call for prayer from the local mosque echoed in the silent valley.

Kashmir’s economy is on the verge of collapse. In the past, even as gun battles between security forces and militants intensified, international tourists still crowded Kashmir’s ski resorts, houseboats, handicraft Pashminas and papyrus shops.

However, since the Indian army moved in, almost no tourists have come.

The absence of tourists has little effect on Ghulam Hussain Mir. Ghulam Hussain Mir’s paper jewellery boxes, bowls and vases are mainly sold online to overseas customers.

But the Indian government’s communications blockade hurt him. Internet, TV and telephone services were closed for several months. When they finally recovered, the government only allowed the slowest mobile Internet speed to prevent videos from reaching smartphones. Mr. Mill missed the order for several months, and now that the demand for his goods around the world can still be overcome due to the cancellation of the coronavirus.

A 700-year-old mosque not far from Mr. Mir’s residence and workshop was opened due to civil strife and fire. But after the Indian government took control of Kashmir, it was closed for several months. Its muezzin is locked, unable to make prayers every day.

Sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the studio, Mr. Mill said: “Fear is different than at any time in the past 40 years, and worse.”

A large number of honeycombs support the tourism of Dal Lake, and the “Lonely Planet” tour guide calls it “the pearl of Srinagar”. Some of the poorest residents of Srinagar live deep in the center of the lake. The area is partially filled and paved and connected by a network of uneven wooden walkways.

Neighborhoods are nicknamed in war-torn places such as Kandahar and the Gaza Strip. Usually, people will find jobs to drive water taxis, repair boats or sell tourist products from floating gardens. Now, there are no jobs other than occasional odd jobs.

Ghulam Mohammad, 56, said: “Life is under embargo because tourism is the most important industry in the city.” Due to lack of activity, “it’s like a jungle now,” Mr. Mohammad looked at the tranquility. Said the lake.

Except for a few Indian tourists, Mr. Wang Nuo has no visitors for a year. He estimated that within six months, he might lose his business and dream of passing it on to the eighth generation of their 20-year-old sons Ibrahim and Akram.

“After several generations of hard work, we have established a reputation. In the final analysis, everything has disappeared.” Mr. Wang Nu said. “Except God, no one is a friend of Kashmir.”

Mr. Wangno has nothing to do. On the last afternoon, he lazily flipped through the precious guestbook in the hotel and urged Mr. Jagger’s father, Sudan, “May you remain indifferent and rude forever.”

When the evening fell on Nagin Lake, Mr. Wangno grabbed his dark brown amethyst collar.

He said: “There is no brightness.” “It looks like a dark day.”

Showkat Nanda Contribution report.

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