|Horses between Palandri and Trarkhel|
Day 6 of 'Ride for Justice' from Sehnsa to Muzaffarabad:
The total distance covered today is a mere three kilometres. At this rate it could be months before I reach Muzaffarabad,
The student at Palandri maddrassah sends me a text message describing me as a 'foreign' intelligence agent and commands me to fear Allah and ponder over my apprehension in the after-life.
A major talking point for people that I meet along the route from Palandri to Trarkhel is the state of the road. Everybody seems to have a different version on the level of corruption involved. The figure varies from 18 Crore rupees to 22 Crore Rupees (c. 2 million pounds). Apparently, according to government records, the money has been spent and it's a 'super road'. In reality the 31 kilometre stretch of road is barely fit for a donkey to travel on!
A local in utter contempt of his own people, strongly feels that most non-muslims have better morals and ethics than us, "We are the worst of the worst".
Where there is despair, there is also hope. I find this in the form of a local activist who echoes so many of the sentiments that I've been grappling with since 2007 (Most of my time has been spent in Azad Kashmir since then). Namely, the absolute necessity of Azad Kashmir to become self-sufficient and be capable of feeding itself. The over-abundance of water, sunlight, greenery and fertile soil leave little excuse for it's people to import basic foodstuff from Pakistan.
He makes a telling comment that throughout history, rural areas have been responsible for feeding urban populations. In Azad Kashmir, it's the total opposite.
He practices what he preaches (a rarity in this region) by showing me practical examples of vegetable growth, fruit plantation, a road built with the help of locals after government refusal, re-planting of forestry etc. etc.
The walk from the bazaar to his home is a steep as well as a stiff task; more than two kilometres of steep incline. This somewhat compensates for the lack of road mileage done today. My daily physical exercise quota since day one has remained incessant.