From Notorious Stone Pelter To Nation Lover

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The life-changing experience of a notorious youth

Pulwama DC And SSP Set An Example; Change Lives, Turn Messiah For Many

By Mudasir Dar

Murran village of Pulwama, 27 kilometers to the south of Srinagar, was once a hotbed of
anti-national activities. Owais Yaqoob, a youth of Murran in his 20s, was once a
synonym for notorious deeds and was known for his anti-India activities. Owais used to
lead a group of stone-pelters and other radical elements.
Today, Owais is a different man. He is a staunch believer in the ‘Idea of India’. He has
represented his nation in sport at international level, and is highly proud of his
achievement.
Owais was brought up in a space where gun culture was romanticized. The story of
Owais revolves around growing up among false notions and awakening to reality.
Leaving his ill-famed past, Owais has chosen new role models to achieve the heights
that he was made for. Now the world-famous Russian mixed martial artist Khabib
Nurmagomedov is his inspiration and icon.

Life has changed for Owais from the “most wanted stone pelter” and the most
radicalized person in Pulwama district to an international athlete. He has left his past
behind, shunning his unwanted anger against the security forces and the nation.
Murran village and especially Murran Chowk were the epicenter of protests. Pulwama
town would reverberate with Owais’s name whenever a convoy of security forces
convoy would pass through the Chowk. The ill deeds of Owais had overshadowed his
talent. Owais was known for his stone-pelting among the local crowd, and not for his
skill in martial arts.
Since childhood, Owais had been passionate about martial arts. Regarding his skill in
martial arts, Owais had been born with an edge over others. But no one had really
realized his immense talent in the field of martial arts. The environment and the
circumstances diverted him towards stone pelting and lawlessness. Owais now realizes
that his life mission would have been lost if he had not been counseled at the right time
by the right people.
How The Transformation Happened
A week before his marriage was scheduled in 2021, Owais was detained by the police
for being an Over Ground Worker (OGW) and a chronic stone pelter. While telling his
story, Owais stated, “A night spent in a jail transformed my perspective of life.” After his
arrest, Owais believed that all of his dreams had been crushed and his career was lost.
In jail, he would curse himself for pushing his life to the wall. People who had been
admiring him for his heroic stunts abandoned him. He found that he was all alone in jail.
There was no one to stand by him.
Owais grew pessimistic and depressive. He thought that this was the end of his life. A
few days later, SSP Pulwama Ghulam Jeelani called him to his office for counseling. “The
SSP counseled me for about two hours. He pointed out my strengths and skill in martial
arts. He offered me an opportunity. I am grateful to the Almighty for this wonderful
opportunity. The Almighty gave me the wisdom to accept this opportunity,” says an
emotional Owais.
“I found an angel in SSP Gulam Jeelani. I have been born twice in this life. The first time
was when my mother gave birth to me. The second life is when SSP Jeelani counseled
and guided me. I found an angel in him who guided and reshaped my life. He counseled
me and opened my eyes to my potential. He opened my eyes to what I can be.”

The opportunity transformed Owais. It changed his destiny and led his life towards
dignity and fame. Since then, Owais has not looked back. He has constantly been
engaged in honing his skills in martial arts.
He demonstrated his ability by representing UT Jammu and Kashmir and reaching the
national level in martial arts.
“It is so easy for youth like me to get lost,” says Owais. “I was into stone pelting. I was
into lawlessness. SSP Jeelani’s guidance and his sympathetic attitude towards me pulled
me out of the dark. I am now following my dream. I owe him my life. I shall work every
day and every second of my life to express my gratitude to the Almighty and to SSP
Jeelani for giving me a new life.” Owais commends the efforts done by SSP. “He arrived
as a messiah in my life,” he says with earnestness.
Owais has now undergone a most wonderful transformation. He has developed a love
for reading. He reads books on numerous topics and genres, as well as works on Islamic
law.

DC Pulwama Turns Around Anti-State Attitude Of A Village

The officers who intend to bring about a change on the ground must have a kind and
friendly approach. I am happy to observe that I have witnessed this approach among top
officers of the Pulwama district. Among them is Deputy Commissioner (DC) Pulwama
Baseer Ul Haq Choudhary.
Let me cite to you a recent example. DC Choudhary brought students from one of the
most volatile areas, Karimabad village of Pulwama district. He made them “DC For A
Day” to inspire them to join civil services and take greater responsibility for their district.
The act was heart touching. It has been shared widely on social media in Kashmir.
Netizens appreciated DC Pulwama for his work towards a better society.
Karimabad has been known as a dangerous area where government officers feared to
enter because of the high levels of anger and resistance in the village. No development
initiatives of the government could be reached to Karimabad. It was considered
impossible for the army or the police to enter the village.
A senior Army officer had once commented that if the situation remains what it is in
Karimabad village of Pulwama district, we will be unable to carry out any operation
there in the future.
There is a popular saying. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Deputy
Commissioner Pulwama Baseer Ul Haq Choudhary and SSP Gulam Jeelani refused to
meekly accept the situation in Karimabad. They refused to cave in to the militant or
separatist elements there.
The DC and the SSP set an example by holding a District Development Council (DDC)
meet in Karimabad. Such an action which strengthened grassroots democracy had been
organized in Karimabad after about two decades. This bold initiative set the ground for
the youth to take interest in the grassroots democratic initiatives and take forward the
development of the village. DC Choudhary and SSP Jeelani have consistently counseled
the misguided youth of all the villages in the district in an effort to bring them into the
mainstream. Their courageous efforts have registered success.

DC Choudhary and SSP Jeelani have consistently counseled the misguided youth of all
the villages in Pulwama district to bring them into the mainstream. Their courageous
efforts have registered success

Owais On A Mission To Discover The Hidden Talent Of Local Youth

Working Hard To Make Society Drugs-Free

With each passing day, Owais adds new feathers to his cap. Owais has won 17 medals at
the state level and 11 medals at the national level in various martial arts tournaments.
He was named the second-best mixed martial artist in the country by the All India Mixed
Martial Art Federation in 2021 (AIMMAF). In 28 states, he has won awards like “Best
Fighter Boy,” and in 2018 he was named “Champion of Champions.”
Owais won the bronze medal at the International Martial Art Championship, which was
held in the Philippines from July 18–24, proving his skill once more. After getting a
chance, he is now paying back the society by pitching in his efforts to eradicate all the
negative trends afflicting his village. He is on a mission to discover the hidden talent of
local youth. He is working hard to make society drug-free at his academy The Lions Den,
where he trains 55 aspiring sportsmen.

BOX FOR THE STORY

The Power Of Kindness And Gentle Attitude Towards Kashmiri Youth

If Owais had he not received guidance and handholding at the appropriate time, he
would have continued to be a danger towards himself as well as for the society. Owais’s
story has once again demonstrated the power of kindness and a gentle attitude while
dealing with Kashmir’s youth.
It is hard to believe that once a stone thrower who was filled with hate against the
nation and our national flag now proudly holds the flag of his country at international
platforms. This is reality. The story is witness that there needs to be a rapid shift in how
Kashmiri youth should be treated.
Imagine what would have happened if the DC and SSP Pulwama had not displayed this
tenderness towards the youth in the areas under their jurisdiction. The radicalization
among the youth of their area would have hardened. The anti-state feelings of the
youth would have deepened. It would have created more militants, more hybrid
militants, more OGWs.
Then these youth would have operated from the wrong side of law. They would have
conflicted with the forces, killing and getting killed.
But the DC and the SSP Pulwama adopted compassionate and innovative approaches to
reach out to the youth. They became father figures for the confused youth who are
searching for meaning.
Imagine what all we can achieve if all officers in positions of authority and responsibility
adopt the same wisdom and the same compassionate, caring and fatherly attitude. With
such earnest efforts, we can achieve new levels of peace and stability.
Multiple benefits shall follow if the policy makers are convinced that state policy should
be drafted and implemented in such a way that it positively engages the youth. It is
these youngsters who shall form the attitudes and opinions of the society tomorrow.
Constructive engagement with them must be promoted. This strategy will save
hundreds of lives. It will save hundreds of families from the trauma of losing family
members. It will turn youth into forerunners of societal peace and advancement. This is
the path to follow.

(The author is a socio-political activist based in South Kashmir. He is a recipient of the
President Award and can be reached at mudasirdariust@gmail.com)

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