One day in 2002, when I was a cub reporter with the newspaper Greater Kashmir, I was discussing a story idea with a senior editor when a man walked into the newsroom and called my name. I asked him to sit down and inquired about the purpose of his visit, mistaking him for one of those people who would often walk into the newspaper’s office with a grievance they desperately wanted to get into print. But he said he was a sub-inspector with the crime investigation department and had to ask me a few questions. “Routine work,” he assured me, speaking in Kashmiri and Urdu. He then proceeded to ask me about my parents, my address, and my favourite books and authors.
Then, the polite policeman asked me something with such frankness that I felt both amused and repulsed. “Were you ever associated with any militant organisation?” he said and smiled.
“Lashkar-e-Taiba,” I said, and returned the smile. By now, the senior colleagues in the newsroom were also smiling, suggesting that this was a familiar ritual to them. Before leaving, the CID man said in a half-apologetic tone that he was only carrying out the orders of his bosses.