December 1998 News

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'We Don't Want to Live in Fear of Terrorists All Our Lives'

20th December 1998
The Indian Express

"The government must not pump in money into our state blindly. It must see where the money is going. Development does not mean Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee giving extra funds for Jammu and Kashmir. He must ensure that the money is actually being used to rebuild schools, libraries, roads, basic health care system and not finding its way into a few pockets." School children from Badgam and Sopore, which emerging from the shadow of the gun for the first time, can speak on issues far beyond their age.

The thirty boys of government schools in the two districts in Jammu and Kashmir are on an Army-sponsored trip to the Capital. They met President K.R. Narayanan on Vijay Divas at India Gate and also got to shake hands with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Defence Minister George Fernandes.

Sipping tea with Major General Surinder Kumar Awasthi, General Officer Commanding(GOC) Delhi Area, they tell you how they are slipping in their effort to get grip on 'normal' life.

"I am studying non-medical science and want to become an engineer. My examinations are long over but I will have to wait for anything between four to eight months for the results. By the time the results are declared, admissions in most prestigious institutions would be over and we would have lost a year," says Oawis, a class XII student of Government Senior Secondary School Sopore.

"You want to know how things are there? We do not have a decent government hospital. Good doctors go to the Gulf and make money and bad doctors make money from us. The government hospitals lack medicines. Then there is nobody to encourage sports there. Some of us are very good sportsmen and have even played zonals and made it to the nationals. But where is the encouragement?" asks a student.

The students are keen to see the country and are surprised to learn about diversities but for some, grandparents are a deterrent. "They do not want us to leave Kashmir. We want to go out and widen our horizons. We don't want to live in the fear of terrorists. But we are scared. If we say anything against them now, we may get into trouble later," says another student.

For now, on their first visit out of Jammu and Kashmir they are enjoying every moment in Delhi. "I wish our state could become like Delhi," gushes little Raju, all of eight years, studying in class IV.

N.A Hakim, their teacher echoes Raju's sentiment. "Roads are in a bad shape there," he says. The students literally felt the road outside General Awasthi's Flat Staff house to see how smooth it was. "We have been to Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Lotus Temple in Delhi. But we liked the Lotus Temple the best. So beautiful, so peaceful and it had so many flowers. Just like Kashmir was when I was small," says Feroz, a class XI student.

"We were very excited when our teachers said that the Army will take us to Delhi. The jawans here are so different. There they always carry guns and look stern. On Vijay Divas (December 16), we met the President at India Gate," says Tanvir Ahmed, a class VIII student, whose dream is to join the Army.


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