Fate of beauty is to be fought over,
She is the constant nymph,
At the every wedding beauty’s the bride;
victor’s fate is surrender
At Kashmiraa’s toe-shaped pride.
Not enough blood in the world
To taint blood in the world
To taint thy immaculate snow;
A ray of the rising sun
Can touch off a bashful glow.
was all smiles. The snow-capped peaks were smiling in the sun.
Lakes, myriad murmuring springs, emerald green turf, the
lattice-work of tall, slender poplars and the haunting grooves of
chinars, tall snow-capped mountains led by the Nanga Parbat – make
it the playground of the god. It can’t be called a rock-bound
prison as the mountains stand guard not to keep Kashmiris in but to
keep unwelcome outsiders out. It is a bastion, which opens its gates
to friends. For
trekkers, Kashmir has been the ultimate paradise. One can disappears
in the mountains; enjoy the tranquility and serenity, becoming one
with the surroundings in a rare communion with nature. The
topography from the Shivalik hills of Jammu to the jagged mountains
of Ladakh is a geographer's delight. Nowhere in the world can one
see so much change in geography in such a small distance: flora and
fauna; Alpine pastures saddled among snow clad peaks with pure
was my last year at the high school in the summer of 1989, first
signs of the separatists and secessionist movement becoming evident
and gaining momentum in Kashmir; sporadic incidents of bombing and
killings were the order of the day. Our school had a long tradition
of sending its high school batch on a long summer trek, an event
that was keenly awaited.
Little did we know at that time, that the rugged Himalayan
adventure amid high mountains, lofty peaks and endless glaciers
which we were to explore as teenagers, would a decade later, become
the hub of terrorist activities: ‘liberated zones’, as the areas
are widely referred to.
the fine sunny morning, we set out in a bus from our school in
Srinagar to Ducksum in south Kashmir, a journey that took us roughly
four hours. Ducksum, known for its scenic beauty is situated at a
distance of 40 kilometers from the district head quarters at
Anantnag. Along with Kokernag and Achabal, Ducksum has long been the
center of attraction for the school children of the valley, to
undertake their annual excursions.
place was to serve as our base camp for the expedition, the duration
of which was put at 14 days. However in the end, primarily due to
fine weather, we were able to culminate the trek in less than 11
first major hurdle was to scale the Margan pass situated at 4,430
meter above the sea level, from Mati Guran.
The journey was a memorable one and yet frightening due to the thick
fog and we made steady progress despite few mishaps: one of our
mules fell down a steep slope and rumors went up that it carried all
our precious tinned food. We all were devastated! The locals, who
were assisting us helped in rescuing the mule along with the entire
had been hearing a lot of stories about the sensational and
breathtaking view that the Wadvan valley presented, but it was
nothing compared to what sprawled beneath us. We were all
mesmerized, despite having lived in Kashmir, for we had never seen
such innocent beauty, the nature presented; everything looked so
untouched, serene and calm, a feeling that creeps up within you once
in a life time.
in the Doda district of Jammu region comprises four major areas. Wadvan
region is one of the remotest villages, situated 3000 meters above
the sea level, tucked away in the dense forests, with no roads,
telephones or electricity and is one of the poorest parts of the
state. It is also a five-day trek from the tehsil head quarters at
Kishtawar. (Took us same time to reach from south Kashmir). It
spreads from villages Hanzi and Inshan. The
Wadvan valley comprises of fourteen villages: Inshan, Virwan, Afti
and Mingli were some of the villages we passed through during our
trek through the valley. The valley has good spots like
Tuiller, Nopachi, Marwah, Tata Pani, and Dashbal. These
areas are rich in trout fish, having unique rainbow colour.
Marwah river passes just in the center of the valley, which
otherwise contains meadows.
than a decade later, valley systems of Wadwan and Marwah, which we
explored more than a decade ago, have become a safe sanctuary for
the militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Dacchan and Paddar valley, to
the south, are again unsecured. The
terrorist groups that executed the series of communal massacres in
Doda since in 1996 as well as carried out attacks on Amarnath
pilgrims since the summer of 2000 were all believed to have
retreated into the safety of Wadwan.
spent one night in the Inshan valley and another night at the Virwan
village and had the opportunity to interact with the local villages.
We also learnt that there was only one matriculate in the whole
valley who had set up a primary school with the aid of the
government. The price of the essential commodities in this remote
area due to its inaccessibility was five fold.
known reporter who visited the area 12 years after our expedition
writes, “On April 13 2001, the SOG-Rashtriya Rifles team launched
its first Wadwan operation and claimed five terrorists at the Wadwan
village of Virwan. On the night of May 20, seven more terrorists
were killed at Rikkenwas; followed by one more at the Pasar Nullah
on June 11. During post-monsoon operations, two terrorists were
killed at Inshan in October, and in November another three were
killed at Mingli”. Media reports also suggest that terrorism has
also put an end to work on the road that was being built from
Kokernag to Wadwan in 1988.”
next main hurdle, which requires a special mention, was the scaling
of the Giulol pass at 4,410 meters above the sea level. We started
the day very early in the morning and by noon we had made very
little progress for the climb were very steep and our rucksacks
added to our discomfort. Little did we know what lay ahead of us at
the top: the weather was freezing cold and we were astounded to find
a 12-kilometer long glacier, a distance which we had to cross to
facilitate our downward journey towards Sheshnag (one of the base
camps for Amarnath yatra). Our blistered feet added to our woes and
it took us better part of three hours to cross the freezing snow.
columnist writes, “this April, for example, the Army stopped
Wadwan horsemen from crossing the Pir Panjal to cater to pilgrims
travelling to the Amarnath shrine. The decision was taken after
terrorist attacks on pilgrims fuelled fears that the high passes
might be used for further strikes.”
the time we reached Shesnag, late in the evening, a cold icy storm
had picked up and we had no option but to abandon the idea of
erecting our own tents. We sought shelter in an abandoned stable to
protect ourselves from freezing to death. Brandy and hot tomato soup
were in abundant supply throughout the night.
made one more night haul at the famous ‘Betab Valley’ (motion
picture Betab was shot in that valley, hence the name) near
reached the culmination point of our expedition, three days to
spare, giving us enough time to take care of our blistered feet and
aching limbs. At the end of the trek, we left Pahalgam for Srinagar,
leaving behind the valley tucked in the magnificent Pir Panchal
range forever, never to return again.
author studied at the prestigious Burn Hall School, Srinagar