After having a beautiful night’s sleep at the houseboat, I got up early in the morning. From my interaction with some Kashmiri students yesterday in the bus, I had come to know that there was a possibility of a shutdown or protest in the city today. So I decided to leave as early as possible. I got ready and from my houseboat, I could see some vehicles and people out for jogging on the road. So I was sure that it wasn’t a curfew. I moved out. On the road, I met a few security personal who asked the same old questions, where I was from and what I was here for, but in a very friendly manner. I told them that I wanted to go to Jammu today. They showed me a shared taxi to Jammu and asked me to make it fast.
I bought a local Kashmiri newspaper. I saw that it was having a strong anti India bias, but found interesting to read on the other side of the story. I read that there was a protest march from here to south Kashmir and the authorities were planning to impose section 144 restrictions in the vicinity of the march. And to make things worse for me, I had to go through south Kashmir. I saw that there were no restrictions in the Jammu stand. Soon the taxi got filled in and we were moving. We reached the city entry point. It looked like a battlefield with an array of military police, riot police, J&K police, CRPF personal with their armoured vehicles. The barbed wires were spread all around the place. They flagged down our taxi. I pulled down the window. As soon as I put my hand inside my jacket to switch off my iPod, I could see an officer staring at me, looking what I was upto. I just smiled back and showed him that it was just an iPod. We were cleared to proceed ahead. We moved on through the barricades. It was only a matter of hours before the section 144 restrictions were to come in force. They were making sure that the protesters won’t be allowed to reach south kashmir. We moved on. The southern entry to the kashmir valley was spectacular with straight roads and beautiful trees on the side and the mountains a little far. This would look really good during autumn, I thought. Because of the army presence, I did not take photos here. We moved on to reach the longest road tunnel in India, the Jawahar Tunnel, which is also the entry point to Kashmir. It went on for 2.5km. Just after the tunnel, I could see a huge queue of traffic which was probably blocked from entering the valley. The vehicle queue went to almost 3-4kms. Such is the uncertainity here. There cannot be a fixed plan to visit Kashmir. You have to be lucky. And very lucky I was, to get one day without a strike and that day I was in there to see the places. Now I was out of kashmir. It was a feeling of accomplishment that was running through my mind as I came out of the Jawahar tunnel. This was a visit that I wanted to do since 2005. I knew about the risks. But still, it was like a dream for me. And now, I have done it.
It took me about 10hrs to reach Jammu. After many days of having to use winter clothing, it was a change for me as it was a very hot day in Jammu. Here in the railway station, I had to pass my bag through xray scanners, the only one such railway station I have seen in the country. Also there will be a routine check by the sniffer dogs on your bag. I then got into the train to move to my next destination.
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