Kids From Violence-torn Kashmir Preach Peace3 January 2010
Times of India
Mumbai: The curiosity with which they look around belies the terror that unfolds daily before their eyes. They are the most vulnerable victims of violence and face destitution. Yet, these abandoned children especially girls from Kashmir Valley-who have been deprived of their childhood and are forced to take on adult responsibilities-are messengers of peace. After having spent time in Pune and Devrukh in Ratnagiri district, currently, 30 of them, many of whom are daughters of militants who lost their lives in the ongoing operation at the Indo-Pak border, are in Mumbai on a 40-day educational travel programme. Their next halt will be in Satara and then Delhi, to be part of the Republic Day parade. The tour has been organised by the NGO Borderless World Foundation (BWF), working for the rehabilitation and socio-economic empowerment of deprived sections in Kashmir. “Everyone thinks Kashmir is unsafe, but that’s not true. People there are as beautiful as the landscape. You come there some day, and we will make sure you never go back,’’ said Mubina Khan (16). Ask the girls of their nationality, and they are quick to reply: “We are Kashmiris.’’ BWF established a home for the orphan girls in Kupwara district of Kashmir more than a decade ago. “Their physical, psychological, social and economic well-being has been affected enormously. Being orphan girls, they are targets of cultural and moral policing as well as discrimination. There are no places of rehabilitation exclusively for girls,’’ said Gaurav Kaul, trustee of BWF. “Healing young children’s spirits may prevent the next war or a conflict,’’ is the BWF’s belief. It set up Basera-e-tabassum (abode of smiles), a home to rehabilitate these kids and help them become independent. Sixteen-year-old Ishrat Rafi who finds it hard to part with her SLR camera even for a moment said: “I am capturing all the moments of this city.’’ Rafi, who recently won an award for the best photograph in NCERT’s national photography competition, lost her father in an encounter when she was a few months old. “I will not speak of terror, but I do know there is nothing to be scared of,’’ she said. Dr Samata Vasisht, trustee of NGO Beyond, associated with BWF, said the girls only think of peace. For Sumaira Bhat (12), Mumbai is synonymous with actor Aamir Khan and she wishes to get a glimpse of the actor. Little does she know that a day has been set aside for them to meet the who’s who of the film industry.