Archive for the 'India' Category

Day 246 – Kashmir day

Today was holidays – the “day of solidarity with people of Kashmir (and Jammu)”. We went out to the city and (like its so often) I had some really weird sights…

Huge banners in Urdu and English have been placed around the city. Talking about heroes, enemies, not much abound friendship, peace or agreement… Its hard to understand such an approach, but let me say a few things for You about this valley…

The whole problem started with the Partition of British Raj India into India and Pakistan in 1947. The history behind this is really interesting, but at this moment all You need to know is that the muslims from India under the leadership of Jinnah have succeeded to persuade the British that its inevitable to create a separate Muslim state. Till today most Indians think it was not needed…

But anyways, the British said OK – each province of India (something like a mini-state) can choose if they want to be part of Pakistan or India. The problem was that in Kashmir the ruler was Hindu, but most of people were Muslim, so he decided to try to stay independent, i.e. not to choose… This made the muslims from new forming Pakistan pissed off (as they thought he could want to join India, who had more resources to offer) and sent army to kick the rulers out – and seeing that the rulers of course announced that Kashmir and Jammu want to join India

Btw, the British would have never accepted K+J being independent, they didnt even agree with Bengal=Bangladesh be separeted and agreed only on its separation only if it is part of Pakistan!

Now the problem was that the leadership of India had an official document stating that K+J want to join India (that document got lost and nobody knows where is it) and thats why India has sent its troops to “protect” K+J. Only a UN-backed negotiation has stopped a full-scale war and has set a cease-fire line – which defacto became the border. India at that time promised that a census – referendum will be held in K+J where the people will decide whom they want to join… That census never happened… The leaders of India at that time felt that K+J are their “homeland” and thus never intended on giving the region to Pakistan.

Since that war, one more war between Pakistan and India about Kashmir took place, the result was actually a return to original cease-fire line. Part of it were troops trained and financed by Pakistan regimes that were supposed to stir revolution in Kashmir. They failed… This war made Zulfikar Bhutto become a hero, for his fight with words (as foreign minister) against India.

As a matter of fact, the area is partly disputed also by China, but Pakistan to strenghten its position against India made a border agreement with China and thus doesnt have conflicts with it. It should be also said that the disputed region is the size of Slovak and Czech republic combined.

To finish up the thing:
- both Indians and Pakistanis feel that Kashmir and Jammu are part of their country
- in light of the proclamation of Kosovo independence its possible to consider Kashmir pronouncing itself independent (as it did in the 60s), but nobody would support that.. as one of my friend ironically noted: “we want them to be freeunder Pakistani rule”. And K+J has not enough infrastructure and will among people to become an independent state
- historically during Partition there was a district of India, that had mostly Hindu inhabitants, but leadership was Muslim, that proclaimed itself part of Pakistan (despite being fully surrounded by want-to-be-india districts), Indian troops kicked the leadership out… but it was MUCH smaller than K+J…but according to a (current) map of Pakistan I have, it is shown as part of Pakistan

picture for comparison… CR+SR=15 mio people
Pakistan = 180 mio people
disputed region (K+J) = 10 mio people

Days 181-92 – more India!

OK, I admit, I tried to be lazy… and not write nearly anything about India… but she doesnt deserve it, India took good care of me, so here we go again:

1. Getting there

I was requesting visas for India from Pakistan, which is already a disadvantage, but thanks to a few miracles and Umar who did the running around Islamabad offices, me and Jeremy got the visas right on time, actually we had to wait for them in Lahore as they came a day later… 3.300 rupees :P The only good thing was that foreigners dont get visas that say how exactly do You have to cross (train, plane, bus) and where (which exact border place), so we walked to Inda :O

Simply said – we took a taxi from Lahore, went to Wagha border, went through the Paki customs, walked to India, went through the Indian customs and than got a taxi to Amritsar… I know it looks pretty simple, and it would normally be, but not if there is a bus with fifty people who comes at the same time as You :P    It took us damn 3 hours to get from 1st to 2nd taxi!

2. Amritsar

Amritsar is the city closest to Lahore, it took half an hour from the border to get there. We had couple of hours before our train left so we thought we have no reason to hurry… but. First of all we wasted time at the border and than it took us 1,5 hour to get a ticket – wait in the line! The way how the ticket selling works is the TOP of unefficiency I have ever seen.

Anyways, we went first to the Golden Temple, as that was something Jeremy wanted to see… and I have to say, I am glad he did. It is a beautiful place, where there is lots to see… For any tourist it is also very good to know that the temple is open to any visitor, there is a place to sleep for free inside, the temple has a charity kitchen that serves hundreds of poor every day and most of all – its really beautiful.

3. Train ride

Was OK. If I say that it took 28 hours, I guess some of You will be scared, well, it was sometimes boring, but it was pretty OK and comfortable.

We spent couple of hours talking to a random indian guy – about everything: partition of India and PK, differences, history and even Kashmir. Result (can not say what is true and what not):
- people of both countries like each other, its the governments that do all the conflicts
- the Pakistani security services actually attacks India
- there is no way how India or Pakistan can accept that Kashmir is not theirs

4. Jamshedpur

Would be a small and unimportant town, if TATA Steel was not founded here – this is where the TATA empire has started. Btw, TATA is launching the “Worlds cheapest car” for only 2.500 USD :) … Apart from that the town is actually owned by TATA and has to be said, thats why its also called the cleanes town of India (eventhough by European standards it still has a long way to go). Generally its just an industrial town with not much to see except a Culture centre (founded by TATA) and schools were poor people learn handycrafts (founded by TATA), TATAs trainign centre (where the opening ceremony was) and TATA Steels factory (which we have not seen).

During the conference we had an Indian night, during which there was a whole program of different kinds of Indian music and dances, really nice :)

5. Kolkata

Where we stayed in a cheap (but really bad) hotel, as we had couple of days left before we had to go back to Pakistan. We saw some nice places like Victorias Memorial (but didnt go in, too expensive for foreigners) and Belur Math (headquarter of Ramakrishnas). As Kolkata experienced some riots lately (conflict between oposition and government) some places have been closed…

BUT what was the most important for us was the FOOD and TEA. Amazing lassi, potato chat, spicy tea and other random foods, that was the best part of the Kolkata stay :)

6. Way back to Lahore

Took two nights and one day :)   Not kidding, but it went fast… Got a few intesting sights, like a cow looking into our compartment, saw the holy river Ganga, and sunrise over the fields. Stopped again for a short time in Amritsar (we came before the border opened) and than walked back to Pakistan… The End :P

Day 181-92 – Dream of every (?) traveler….INDIA

How to start? There is a very frequent saying that “You can only love or hate India, there is nothing in the middle“… Well, I am a proof that there is :)

I have spent in India more than a week, took a train across it – from Amritsar to Kolkata – and had a day in Amritsar – a city with a beautiful temple worth hours of walking…

…but after all I have to say that I have achieved only five special things:
- got absolutely broke,
- met some really nice people at the conference (like You always do),
- got a very much deserved faci experience,
- made a tick on the field of “been to India” that all wanna-be-travelers have,
- had some really good street food and tea

I knew that the difference between Pakistan and India is not too big, but was suprised with lack of a feeling of something new and special.

I got enough, but looking back, I think, when I come to this region of world, I will head for Pakistan – for me its more interesting, more surprising, nobody has been there and most of all – ITS MY HOME!

Sorry India You were nice, but my heart belongs to Your Brother :)