Kashmir is a land whose picturesque beauty is loved around the globe, its wazwan is relished by everyone, everyone wants to come here again and again; where everybody basks in the glory of its different seasons. The same is the case with its people; they, too, enjoy everything associated with their land – except the illegal occupation.

Now, this paradise has lost its magical spell. It seems to have fallen victim to an evil eye. Since the start of the occupation, I have lost my paradise and I am in search of its lost glory. From the plant kingdom to that of humans, they have lost their peace and paradise.

I was taught by a teacher in the early stage of my life, that in a paradise nobody is supposed to interfere with your affairs; you are free of constraints. But in a paradise like Kashmir, the pattern is reversed. You are forced to follow draconian laws. You are asked to show your identity. You are caged in your homes for months on end. You are tortured, killed after being implicated in false cases. You are subjected to enforced disappearances through no fault of your own. Your mothers, sisters and wives are raped. Your schools are burnt to ashes where your blooming flowers learn the precious lessons of their lives. Unlike the features of paradise, here you won’t find the singing of the flying birds as they, too, are in the grip of fear. From children to the old aged, from girls to women, from plants to animals, everybody has witnessed the pool of the blood.

Our blooming buds – children – are depressed now. When I was in the 2nd standard, I used to play hide and seek with my friends. One day, a call from the neighbour frightened us as the army had cordoned off our village in search of a militants. While we still continued to play, an army man unluckily approached the place where I had hidden myself. He ruffled his gun and pointed at my head as if he thought a 7 year-old child would be the chief commander of the guerilla group. I screamed in front of him till somebody told him that these children were playing hide and seek. Only then did he leave. That day was the last day I played hide and seek, because my parents didn’t allow me to play it again.

The same is the case with our present blooming buds as they are caged in their homes for months. They are depressed due to the ongoing turmoil in the lost paradise. They lack interest in studies, always feeling a sense of discomfort. We are worried about the future of our children. I heard some students talking to each other and the conversation goes like this: If the government will reopen the schools again how can we go to school, since our schools are now burnt down. How can we play with our friends as they were pellet victims? How can we eat lunch together when some of our friends are in their graves? How do we face our teachers, as some of our teachers are behind the bars and some are in an eternal paradise?

Now is the time to think about Kashmir's ill-fated children. Let them play again, let them play the game of hide and seek which I couldn’t relish. Let children be spared ugly sights of the pool of bloods on the roads, and bullets in the rooms. Let them see the same paradise, again, about which Jahangir had rightly said that if there is paradise, it is here, it is here, it is here.

It’s not only our children who are suffering, our younger ones as well as older ones are suffering equally on a multitude of fronts. Economically, we are facing the worst financial crisis since that goddamn accession. But the ongoing turmoil has hit tourism and transport workers the most. This conflict did not only hurt the economy, but it also took thousands of lives and atrocities keep raging around the lost paradise. From time to time, India and its rulers made lofty promises but, instead, they raped our women.  Kunan Poshpara is a glaring example. They kill, maim, and torture Kashmiris through their draconian laws. They make our women half-widows. Now they call this lost paradise their integral part. Gandhi and Nehru categorically declared in their speeches, "Kashmiris will have to be given their rights, according to their wishes." But, unfortunately, India has forgotten the promises of the fathers of their nation.

As we know, human life is a precious asset and no price can compensate for its worth. We need to think about how to regain the glory of this lost paradise via talks, not through gun barrels. The gun, whether it is from the India or from the other side, will only devastate this paradise. So let the concerned start talks to reclaim the lost glory of our paradise.

Let peace prevail.