Kashmiri Youths On Mission To Highlight Ground Reality

31 January 2015
The Hindu
Omar Rashid

Mumbai: Joginder Singh has seen death and horror from close quarters. In 1999, when he was barely four, he witnessed the murder of 15 of his relatives, including his parents, when militants attacked his Lahota village in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. The incident left Joginder scarred. Joginder might be forgiven for harbouring hate. But he chose a different path: that of reconciliation and forgiveness. 'Yes, there is anger. But does it solve the issue? It only gives way to more anger,' says Joginder, now 19. Joginder's words may sound too profound for someone his age, but that is the message he and a dozen-odd Kashmiri youths want to send across the country. His own tragedy has given him a sense of purpose to spread the message of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Unlike most other youths in violence-torn districts of Kashmir, Joginder was fortunate enough, three years ago, to get rehabilitated by the Pune-based NGO, Sarhad, on the recommendation of the then Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad. Along with a dozen other youngsters from the State, Joginder last week embarked on a nationwide campaign from Nagpur to educate fellow Indians on the realities in Kashmir, while dispelling myths about violence, hate and polarisation. ' Nazariyan badalna hai [We want to change the viewpoint towards Kashmir],' says Joginder, who is studying commerce. On the campaign 'Jaago Bharat-The Idea of India,' he will be accompanied by youngsters from different parts of Kashmir, each with a similar tale of displacement, violence and terror. 'People in Kashmir want peace, not violence. If we can be one, why can't everyone else,' he asks. Zahid Bhatt, from Budgam, came to Pune in 2004. He is now pursuing a law degree in Sarhad College. Frustrated by the constant atmosphere of fear and excesses committed by the Army on his family, he had once considered taking up the gun. The father of Ashiq Khan, from Anantnag, was killed in a skirmish with the Army as he was known to have sympathies with terrorists, while Manzoor Basher Rather's father, a policeman at Bandipora, was shot dead by militants. The group includes girls Rubina Afzal Mir, 15, from Kupwara and Stanzin Dolma from Kargil. Sanjay Nahar, founder of Sarhad, said the initiative was to reach out to mainstream Indians and dispel the notions about Kashmir.