When we talk about Kashmir, a picture that comes to our mind is the fear of unknown, hostile environment, a war torn place, a place where tyres are burning on road, a place where all shops are shut, sec 144 is invoked and curfew is in place. But today this image is far from reality. Today, when I pass through the towns of Sopore, Baramulla or Srinagar, many a times I get stuck in traffic not because of any terrorist sponsored incident but because, people are busy in their routine affairs. These towns reflect an image of any city from rest of India, like Lucknow or Delhi, where narrow alleys filled with street vendors and traffic jams with vehicles honking because of some school bus trying to make a sharp turn on those narrow roads is a common picture. One may argue that the credit entirely goes to the tireless efforts and complete dedication of the security forces but we cannot ignore the local populace for their trust and confidence in the system. Today people of Kashmir have grown smarter from the age old narration of our neighbours supported by the anti national elements within the state and that of the so called terrorist outfits who claim their fight for Jihad is superior that the comfort and well-being of the population. Now a days, when I speak to the locals they do not talk about the past and the never ending game of throwing responsibility on the state or that of morally right or wrong, but they talk about what is profitable for the entire community. In a public gathering people claim about the shambles that the neighbouring country is in. They don’t feel ashamed to say that Pakistan is practically a vassal of China. The unstable government, where not even a single PM has completed a tenure, depleting forex reserve and increasing inflation is alienating the locals and in the process shifting their allegiance to pro India. I remember one such interaction where a bunch of elders were interviewed, they expressed the same thoughts. One of them narrated an incident to support this thought. He said, today I have five sons, all are married and all have young kids. There was a time when my kids were young and deprived of steady education due to constant terrorist attacks and the subsequent curfews. They have ended up being school dropouts. Today, my grandchildren go to school regularly, I haven’t seen any curfew for past 7 years and my grandchildren have not seen the same in their entire life. Markets are open, apple and walnuts sales have increased manifold, business is blooming. He says this is all thanks to the efforts of the security forces. Today he feels morally obligated to work in favour of our soldiers and assist them in whichever way possible as their presence has brought stability to his home and there has been no case of death related to terrorism for past 15 years in his family. He dreams about atleast one of his grandchild will be a doctor who will save lives and try to undo the horrors of his generation. There are lots of examples where the older generations narrate incidences which suggest how tough and hard task masters were the older units. They say how they used to feel when there used to be an unwritten curfew. How suspicious stares greeted them when accidently they encountered a patrol passing by. They also remember the pitch dark nights when terrorists used to bash on their front doors and forced them to feed and feast on their loved ones. It was followed by the crackdown by the security personnel to flush out these demons. Many a times the only loser in this act was the house owner, who was often left with a destroyed house, raped sisters and wives, lost self respect or the worst nightmare a ‘Janaza’ or abduction by terrorist. But now they exclaim and say with conviction, things have changed, insurgency has gone down and there are a handful of terrorists left that too with a borrowed lifeline. All thanks to the iron resolve and innumerous sacrifices of our brave soldiers and complete confidence of the populace in the forces. Today, the Rashtriya Rifles Battalions are no longer employed to counter terrorism but to build the war torn paradise on earth. We feel safe in their presence. The most important step in nation building is guiding the youth in the right direction and what is a better way than to provide opportunities and boost young minds through projects of ‘Sadbhavna’ targeting the youth. The people of Kashmir have graced the warm velvet touch of the same iron hand completely.