Fear is the biggest threat to humans, even bigger than death. The death kills once; but the fear kills many times before one dies. Rahman, 68, a farmer by profession, in North Kashmir cursed the time when he was living in fright of getting killed by a terrorist who had moved to Pakistan to get arms as Rehman had a heated argument with him (terrorist). “It was a cold morning of December in the 90’s. I was doing some work in my farm adjacent to the road, and one of my neighbors’ Arif, (30) came and yelled at me for a trivial issue to which I had responded in haste, that infuriated him and he threatened me with befitting consequences,” said Rahman. Arif had threatened to kill him after getting weapons from Pakistan, as insurgency was at its peak at that time and entirely supported by Pakistan. Rahman had no idea if Arif would move to Pakistan for arms training just to kill him and his family. “I was surprised after knowing that Arif had left for Pakistan. How could one procure weapons that were meant for “Jihad” to kill fellow Kashmiris?” he lamented.

Drunk in youth and indoctrinated by Pakistan sponsored propaganda, many young Kashmiris moved to Pakistan during 90’s to receive arms training and getting weapons. Most of the terrorists had only one motive behind getting weapons to get married with the girls of their choice at gunpoint. Kashmir still has hundreds of girls who had got married during the 90’s on gunpoint as their husbands had received the weapons from Pakistan. Pertinent to mention here that with the passage of time many women got freedom from them as many terrorists were killed by security forces in encounters. Several women sought divorce from their terrorist husbands as the situation improved as they were not in the relationship of their choice. Rahman did not live the life he wished to, as he was seeing death approaching him every day, as the terrorist had threatened to kill him. Till 2005 every knock on his door would make him feel that Arif has come to massacre his entire family.

“For me it was good news – that Arif had got buried under the debris of a house during the earthquake which left him handicapped. Actually, I wanted him to be killed for the safety of my family from his ill intentions,” said Rahman The earthquake that occurred in Pakistan in 2005 killed and handicapped thousands of people including many Kashmiris who had moved to Pakistan for arms training but could not return back due to vigilance of security forces on borders. Moving to Pakistan was an adventure for the youth of Kashmir back in the late 90s, and once back home, they became a gang of extortionists, rapists and blackmailers. They would extort money from people having modest life and people with stable income – including government employees, big landlords and traders. Under the umbrella of “Jihad” most of the young boys who received arms training from neighboring Pakistan, kidnapped daughters of Kashmir, molested them and married them at gunpoint. Donations were being collected from the people forcibly and those who would deny were being killed, threatened and made hostage. That era was the darkest period in the history of Kashmir.

Surprisingly, there were more gun fights amongst the different terrorist tanzeems than with the security forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir, as more than 10 terrorist groups were operating in the region being remote controlled by different radicalized Pakistan based groups.As of May 1996, at least six major terrorist organizations, and several smaller ones operated in Kashmir. Ideologically they were roughly divided between those who “supported independence” and those who supported “accession to Pakistan”. But practically they were people indulging in extortion, killing of innocent Kashmiri. Narcotics played a major role in funding of terrorist groups. A generation of Kashmiri youth was collapsed by narcotics, thus putting their lives in danger just to make money to support terrorism in Kashmir. In the past one-year itself security forces in North Kashmir have intercepted narcotics costing more than 120 Crore Rupees that were pushed by Pakistan to support some handful of terrorists and other anti-national elements operating in Kashmir.

For Rehaman and other common Kashmiris in North Kashmir, the tides began during post abrogation of article 370 in successful operation by security forces with the co-operation of local population in North Kashmir that has established a sense of peace and restored freedom from wanton violence and plunder by self serving groups of rouges propagating as freedom fighters. The more focus and expenditure on economic activities and fast progress of various development projects facilitated by this environment of peace have reintroduced the hope of a bright future for  Rehman and his family and thousands of common Kashmiris.   

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