SRINAGAR: One of the key sources of Kashmir’s history are hundreds of travelogues that Western tourists have written in the last more than 200 years. These are being cherished as firsthand accounts of Kashmir interaction with the outer world at a time when there were restrictions on rights and privileges.
Last week, a traveller’s account was published in Australia that would be regretted by Kashmir for a long time because it tells the flipside of Kashmir’s tourism story. It might be an exception but shaming it is.
A Dangerous Pursuit of Happiness is the book written by Carmen Greentree, a young pro surfer who alleges that she was “held captive on a squalid houseboat” and “raped for two months” after she was “kidnapped”, according to Daily Mail Australia. The author, the victim of the crime, has named names and the book is entirely about the harrowing experiences of her two months till she was rescued by police on the request of her friend.
The Sydney resident, Carmen Greentree (then Carmen Buecher) was only 22 when she reached Kashmir and now she is 37 and mother of three young kids. She is a professional healer. The incident is reported to have taken place in May 2004 and she was rescued by police on July 25, 2004.
“I didn’t think I was ever getting off that boat, I thought I would die there one way or another,” the author tourists was quoted saying by the newspaper. After training with seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and competing all over the world on the pro circuit in 2002-03, she could not manage to get into the Women’s World Championship Tour in 2003. Then, she took a break and landed in India with the sole motive to visit Dharamshala, the abode of Dalai Lama.
In Delhi, soon after landing, she fell victim to a group of tourism touts who convinced her that the road to Dharmshala was going through Kashmir, according to the report. She landed in Srinagar and the ordeal started. She touched down Srinagar on May 27 and was pushed into a houseboat till she was rescued. Once she was in, her ordeal started
“The worst feeling was when I gave in and let him take what he wanted,” the author told the newspaper. “That was the first time he raped me. I was too tired, I couldn’t fight anymore, and I knew he wasn’t going to stop.” As it became a routine, the mother of three told the newspaper: “I was completely broken, I wasn’t even me anymore. I was existing as a shell.”
Carmen has told the newspaper that her host tormentor took away her travel documents saying in the militarized region, the soldiers can take it if she moves around alone. “I wish I had tried to swim to shore but I was terrified that if Rafiq caught me he would do even more terrible things to me,” the newspaper quoted her saying. “I would have been dripping wet in white cloth with no paperwork, passport, or money in Kashmir where almost no one spoke English and the war was going on.” She has told the newspaper that he would hit her when she tried to stand up for herself.
The book, according to the newspaper, has revealed that her tormenting host’s family knew of his deeds but none of them intervened or helped her escape. Instead, the family gave her Muslim attire and suggested her to pray for five times a day.
“She claims the rescue was only set in motion after her close friend Katherine had a dream that made her believe Ms Greentree was in trouble,” the newspaper reported. “Katherine convinced the Australian High Commission in India to investigate, which persuaded local police to treat her as a missing person. “
Her host had forced her to talk to her parents and seek more money. This helped her friend to get the phone number on which she eventually was contacted and the rescue took place.
“On July 25, several police boats arrived and armed officers stormed the houseboat and whisked her away to safety,” the newspaper reported. “Ms Greentree was taken to a hotel in New Delhi with bodyguards and embassy staff looking after her while she told police of her ordeal.”
Police later arrested the houseboat owner and his brother and retrieved her passport and most of her belongings. “I was supposed to go back to India and give evidence in court but I couldn’t go through with it, I wish I had,” she said. The newspaper added: “The pair are believed to have spent six months in jail charged with rape before the case collapsed and they were released.”
Sixteen years later, her ordeal is a full-fledged book now.
The then Director-General Tourism told Kashmir Life that it is a fact that they were told of this case and they immediately acted and rescue the young lady. “We ensured there is an FIR against the accused houseboat owners and there is an investigation,” the then DG said. “I do not know what happened to the case later but the trade was also supportive of harsh action against the accused.”
A Houseboat Association leader in Srinagar said that he is aware of the case though he was working outside Kashmir at that point in time. “We came out in public against the houseboat owner and we supported action against the family under the law,” Abdul Rashid, an executive of the Association said. “We are not aware of what happened to the case in the court of law but it is a fact that they were arrested and later freed,” Rashid said they support justice to the victim.