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Kashmir's new normal

8 12 0

It was not like catching just another flight.

“Will I be allowed to enter the city or will I be turned away from the airport?”

“Will my camera be taken away?”

These questions swirled in my mind as I took the plunge in these uncertain times — taking the flight from New Delhi to Srinagar.

The mission was to catch the buzz on the ground a month after Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status. The plan was to go in as an undercover journalist, mingle with the locals and get a first-hand account of what’s normal and what’s not.

Kashmir wears a deserted look in peak tourist season. (Photo: Reuters)

‘Close your window shields’

At the Delhi airport, I checked a few times if Srinagar-bound flights were running on schedule and learnt that all was well. So the journey was on!

The moment I boarded the flight, I was face-to-face with a downcast mood. This is peak tourism season for Kashmir and the flight should ideally have been packed with cheery travellers. Instead, there were only Kashmiris on board, all heading home — an unmistakable worrisome look on all of their faces.

After an hour-and-a-half, when the plane was preparing to land, an unusual announcement over the public address system left me baffled.

“All passengers are requested to close their window shields during landing,” the crew’s voice rang out. It was a new thing for Srinagar-bound flights.

The air hostesses kept a close watch to ensure we followed the strange instruction. At the time of landing, though, I took advantage of the crew not lurking around and pulled my window shield halfway down.

The Srinagar airport I saw appeared hardly chilled out and bustling as touristy places are. Instead, it was a quiet and heavily militarised setting, with aircraft, patrols, lots of equipment and bunkers.

Claps of sarcasm

Just after the........

© DailyO