Jeffrey Stern

From Foreign Policy: “The Politics of Policing Kashmir

“Last summer, I sat by a pool at an old hotel in Srinagar…

Distance and liquor make for easy acquaintance and I soon found myself talking with the two afternoon patrons with whom I shared an otherwise empty poolside bar; these two, travelers as well, sort of — Indian soldiers in plainclothes, both speaking of Kashmir as if it were a foreign detachment, though it’s a place India calls India.   They were both officers, but came off as accomplices in their own satire.

Such is the pressure on the Indian soldier in Kashmir that he often defaults to defensive, as if a question about the Indian military is necessarily an indictment of it.

Whenever Kashmiris become especially agitated, Delhi looks west, assigning responsibility for the violence to Pakistan or militants hosted there, because it’s easier to blame a foreign and specific interest than it is to implicate an entire population.

That afternoon at the Broadway, both soldiers understood this phenomenon even before I did. As a foreign journalist, they were certain, I would soon go out and hear horrible things about their comrades in the army.  Likely, that’s why I was there; to report on gang rapes and mass graves, all the illustrative trespasses Kashmiri separatists cite on their long list of grievances with the Indian military. The young major resented me for it before I even began reporting, instilled, as he was, with all the vigor of a young man told he’s fighting for a righteous cause on behalf of an ungracious people. He was an Indian military man, after all, and I a journalist. Regardless of what I felt or feel, to him, my presence in Kashmir was my disapproval of his.”

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