Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday sounded optimistic with the belief that 'peace was gradually taking roots' in the state, two decades after armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir valley.
Apparently buoyed by a heightened economic activity amid huge rush of tourists to the war torn valley this year, Abdullah sensed a silver lining on the horizon after 'a period of darkness and disturbance'.
"Peace is rooting gradually and days of desperation are vanishing. After witnessing a dark period of 22 years we are coming out of it gradually", Abdullah said while addressing a function in old city Srinagar to honour Buddhist religious leader Dalai Lama who is on a weeklong visit to the state after 24 years.
A relatively peaceful atmosphere for the past two years has pushed up the inflow of visitors manifold with people expecting a record arrival of 2 million this year. In 2011, over 1.3 million visitors including backpackers and honeymooners visited the mountains, meadows and streams of the Himalayan region.
Known for its breath taking beauty and simple lifestyle of people, Kashmir remained on the travel itinerary of most foreigners for decades till 1989 when a rebellion was crushed by the iron fisted response of Indian state. "Every section of the society had to bear the brunt of disturbance in one or the other way," Abdullah recalled.
Around 45,000 people, as per official counts, including militants and armed forces lost their lives in the conflict.
Despite the optimism and a substantial decrease in militancy related violence, not many are convinced of the claims of peace.
"Not in many years has the valley looked as verdant nor Srinagar been as packed with tourists as this June. It appears better than the best times in Kashmir," wrote AS Dulat, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, last week.
"But it would be wrong to imagine that all is hunky dory in Kashmir. Even though infiltration, militancy and violence are down the security scenario is far from reassuring. The calm appears deceptive. There is a sullen undercurrent as if the present bounty is too good to last," he believed.
Although publicly acknowledging that not more than 300 militants were active in valley, army is against the withdrawal of troops or revocation of terror laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act.