SPORTS : A UNIFIER OF KASHMIRI YOUTH
“Kashmiri youth have enough talent. They only need a proper direction and platform to move ahead in their lives”
- Warheed Para, Former J&K Secretary Sports Council
Youth and sports are two important aspects of society. Youth is the backbone of the country and sports is the platform which can transform the life of every youth and Nation. Sports teaches the youth how to dream, pursue their goals and contribute to their Families, Communities, country and the World. By taking part in sports and physical activities they are exposed to sports key values including team work, fair play, respect of the rules, cooperation, discipline and tolerance. These skills are essential for professional life and can stimulate social cohesion within communities and societies.
Kashmir has grappled with three decades of Pak sponsored terrorism. It has caused colossal socio-economic turmoil and has derailed of development process. It has deprived the local youth of opportunities for self-development and the chance at realising their full potential. The disillusioned youth gets sucked into the vicious cycle of despair, radicalisation and violence, affecting peace in the Valley. In this backdrop, sports could emerge as a unifying factor in the Valley which can play a crucial role in bringing a feeling of normalcy in their lives by taking their mind away from the conflicts and internal disturbances being created by our adversary.
Next to none in intellect and talent, when given proper environment, Kashmiri youth have excelled in various fields. In sports, Jammu and Kashmir has produced numerous International and National level players including Gul Dev, the first Kashmiri Olympian, sharp shooter Chain Singh and footballer Mehrajuddin Wadoo among others. Cricket and football being the most popular sports amongst the youth in the Valley, it has produced numerous international football players such as Abdul Majeed Kakroo, who represented India at the 1984 Asian Cup. Players from the region have been part of top football club teams in India such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Also in cricket, Parvez Rasool, represented India in T20 against England. Apart from this, numerous cricketers such as Abdul Samad, Rasikh Salam and Mithun Manhas were part of the Indian Premier League.
For harnessing this tremendous potential of sports talent in the Valley, the J&K government will have to play a crucial role in terms of sports infrastructure development and providing the right platform to its youth. In this, Indian army has also been leading from the front with an aim to nurture talent, especially in remote regions. A number of sports competitions are being organised to effectively engage the youth and channelise their energies towards nation building. This is clearly reflected in the reduced number of local youth joining tanzeems in the years of 2019 & 2020 and stone pelting cases especially after abrogation of Articles 370 & 35 A. Also, under Army’s Sadbhavna and Government’s Border Area Development Projects, the local schools are being assisted by improving their sports infrastructure such as playing grounds and provision of sports kits etc.
In the past, there have been examples in which youth from the Valley had turned around from their wrong path to choose their favourite sports. Afshan Ashiq’s picture as an angry Kashmiri girl pelting stones at the J&K Police in 2017 got her into national media spotlight. She is captain and goalkeeper of the J&K Women’s Football Team and competing in the Indian Women’s League. Anantnag’s 20-year-old footballer Majid Khan who joined LeT surrendered before security forces in Kashmir and returned back to the sport he loved. These are beautiful transformations which has resonated in the minds of all youth alive.
Recently the Jammu and Kashmir Government has sanctioned the implementation of Jammu & Kashmir Sports Policy 2022, with the institution of several sports awards, incentives, scholarships, appointment of outstanding sports persons among other features in order to make the sports lucrative for youth. The policy document lays thrust to create vibrant incentivised sports ecosystem through strategic interventions for sports in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The basic cannons of the policy are to ‘Scout’, ‘Engage’, ‘Facilitate’, and ‘Recognise’. This policy will definitely act as a boon for the sportsperson in the Valley while ensuring the engagement of youth in the right direction.
To achieve the vision for positive engagement of Kashmiri youth, it needs determination and dedication in a well-planned and organized way by each and every entity. The fear at this juncture is that Kashmir youth should not plunge back into the vicious cycle of despair, radicalisation and violence again due to lack of initiative and opportunities. Therefore, collective efforts are required from all stakeholders. In this regard the Army in Kashmir Valley must continue its steller role in building Nationalism and ensuring maximum youth joins the mainstream by positively engaging them. All these initiatives will go a long way in defeating the nefarious designs of the anti-national elements. The youth touched by such an outreach will remain motivated to shun violence and contribute positively towards the progress of Kashmiri Society.
– Maj Hemchand Meetei