Jashn e Gurez

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Jashn e Gurez

The Many Ways In Which Kashmir Finds Itself Again

Mareaya Fayaz

Hearing the word Kashmir may seem to bring an atmosphere of threat into the hearts and minds of people. But let me tell you as a Kashmiri – the dread built over Kashmir is also a media construct. We Kashmiris are happy, normal people trying to live happy, healthy and normal lives – the way people do nationally and globally. Yes, something awful happened in the 90s. Even now, in our present, there are reverberations and echoes of that horror.

But the youth of Kashmir and the people at large cannot be defined by the horrors of the 90s, or by the sad developments that we face even today. These sad developments, the killings and the targeted violence are a part of our life. We are forced to live with them, but our life is much bigger. The youth of Kashmir are building for themselves happy, prosperous and abundant lives. Jashn e Gurez hence fits so beautifully with what we are and what we want to be.

Many in the national and international media continue to build doomsday scenario for Kashmir – as if we are facing the end of the world here. Welcome to the real. Welcome to our blooming and blossoming Kashmir. You may think that it is easy for me to say this, since I am a Kashmiri.

Totally right. I know my Valley, my people. And if you come and visit us, you shall realize the same. Despite the challenges, we continue to build our lives the way we want to, with celebrations and diverse events.

 

Inter Village Cricket Tournament

Inter School Volleyball Tournament

One of those events is Jashn e Gurez, a-20 day festival organised by the Army in collaboration with the District Administration of Bandipora and the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department. The purpose of Jashn e Gurez was to Jashn e Gurez promote Gurez as an offbeat adventure tourist destination, and increase the footfall of tourists to the valley.

The local residents are aware that such initiatives are very important for them for the socio economic development of Gurez. Jashn e Gurez showcased a plethora of adventure, sports and cultural activities. The event began on June 1, 2022 with an Inter Village Cricket Tournament.

Teams from various villages of Gurez participated in the event. There was also a team from the Army and JK Police, setting up a friendly atmosphere for the youth playing the match.

On Day 4 of Jashn e Gurez, the Inter School Volleyball Tournament was organized by the Army at the Dawar Helipad. This was organized in collaboration with the Zonal Physical Education Department. More than 12 schools comprising 84 students –boys and girls – participated in the event. The Inter Village Cricket Tournament and also the Inter School Volleyball Tournament turned out to be huge hits among the students, and were heavily attended.

On Day 6 of the event, the Army, the District Administration and J&K Tourism Department organized a Mega Cleanliness and Plantation Drive. The drive was organized on the occasion of World Environment Week, and was observed all across Gurez valley.

The cleanliness drive was flagged off from Dawar Market by the SDM and Forest Range Officer of Gurez. About 200 people took part in the event including representatives from the Army, the District Administration, Forest Department, Tourists, Hoteliers Association and students from different schools and youngsters. The rally culminated at Dak Bungalow, where saplings were distributed to the school children. Some saplings were planted in situ by the dignitaries.

The participants and the youth raised slogans of Gurez Saj Raha Hai, Jashn-E-Gurez Ke Liye and Go Green, Go Gurez.

Mega Sports Festival

From June 7 to 12, a mega sports festival was organized as part of the Jashn e Gurez festival. The sports festival was organized by the Army in collaboration with Padma Shree Faisal Ali Dar’s Ali Sports Academy and the District Administration, Bandipora. Three new sports have been introduced in Kashmir over the last few years. These are Rugby, Pencak Silat and Wushu. These three sports were taught to children and youth from all across the Gurez valley during the event.

On the first day of the event, more than 200 children from the Tulail, Kanzalwan and Dawar sub sectors took part. The District administrations and the Army are working to include more children from other parts of the country in the Jashn e Gurez event.

On June 11, Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, Advisor to the LG, inaugurated a view point at Chorwan to promote border tourism. The Army has built the model view point to help visitors who are eager to see border regions this tourism season and are swarming Gurez. Officials said that the UT Administration is keen to promote tourism in Gurez to help the border regions’ economies and boost infrastructure development.

Josh Run and Walkathon

The Army organized a Josh Run and Walkathon in Gurez on June 13 June as part of the Jashn-e-Gurez festival. More than 200 boys and girls from various schools in the valley took part in the electrifying event. Additionally, more than 70 personnel of the Army, CISF and BSF took part in the activity.

Three categories were used to conduct the tournament. The 3 km race titled Children’s Run for Fun was the first to start. Then the 10 km Josh Run for the youth and security personnel began thereafter.

Thereafter, the Girls Walkathon was flagged off. The 5 km brisk walk ended at the Habba Khatoon Spring.

 

Dard Shin Festival

The Annual, Much-Loved Gurez Mela

On June 14, the Dard Shin Festival was organized. More than 2500 people including a large number of tourists visiting the area took part in the fest. Officers of the Army, BSF, CISF JKP and the District Administration also joined the festivities.

The event began with the much-anticipated and prized Pony Race, which is held every year in Gurez. The village games held during the Dard Shin Festival featured a number of thrilling competitions. These included the Pithu Race, the Inter-Village Tug of War, the Jalebi, lemon race and sack race for kids.

Fifteen booths were set up by various departments as part of the fest. These included the Departments of Forestry, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Animal Husbandry. A number of sports and food stalls were also set up. Other booths and handicrafts stalls were set up from where tourists could buy souvenirs from Gurez. The locals and tourists delighted in the Decathlon shop set up at the fest.

The army set up a medical check-up camp during the Festival for the benefit of the residents, who received free examinations and medications.

The Dard Shin Festival featured a variety of cultural programs by teams from schools, colleges, and also by musical troupes from all around the valley. All these programs focused on promoting the rich culture of the Dard Shin tribe of Gurez. Visitors also had a great time at the Log Hut Café run by the Army.

 

Sham e Gurez

On June 15, Gurez celebrated Sham e Gurez. More than 4000 locals, tourists, security personnel and officials of the Army, BSF, CISF, JKP and civil administration attended the star-studded evening. Everyone highly enjoyed the event and danced to the music of Kashmir’s loved performers including Waqar Khan, Waseem Khan, Nargis Khatoon, Khan Amir and many others.

Along with the captivating musicals, the event featured a spectacular fireworks display which lasted for more than 30 minutes. The Army devoted the magical Evening to the people of Gurez, to show their appreciation for the people’s unwavering support. The theme for the evening was Ek Shaam Gurez ke Naam.

Maximizing Youth Power

A major purpose of the event was to popularize Gurez as a travel and tour destination. The other major purpose of the event was to encourage the youth to explore their talents and strengths, and participate in positive and affirmative peer activities. This shall also ensure that the youth stay away from drugs and also from radicalization.

I would say that events like these should be held regularly so that the youth find an appropriate channel for their energy. Hundreds of youngsters participated in diverse activities during the fest and found new energy and josh.

One of my friends, Dr Sanya Khan also attended Jashn e Gurez. She told me that she was mesmerized by the cultural festivities. She said that Jashn e Gurez was a happy and positive experience.

Sanya told me that she went for Jashn e Gurez with her father and a friend. “We had a great time because there were so many games and food vendors from many departments. We had the time of our life,” Sanya said.

I look forward to attend more fantastic festivals in Gurez in the future.

The Bigger Picture

An Army officer told me that he was not surprised that Jashn e Gurez was such a huge hit. He said that the locals here are very supportive. For a year and a half, the Army has been organizing events in collaboration with the district administration. During 2021, a large number of events were organized. The

Gurez residents participate in the events with great enthusiasm.

The Army officer told me that the purpose of the events is not just to popularize Gurez as a tourism destination. The purpose is also to promote the culture and languauges of the Dard Shin tribe, and encourage their youth to find pride in their history and culture.

It was a happy moment to witness how Kashmiri women and girls delighted in the celebration of their culture, and participated in their traditional dances. The viewers cheered with enthusiasm. This was new and so beautiful.

Outside Kashmir, many believe that the Valley is at a point of despair. The media loves to build the All-Is-Lost narrative. This does not reflect the truth. Kashmir is at the threshold of better times. The youth are making many positive and affirmative choices. That too defines Kashmir. That too defines who we are and what we want to be.

I loved it that boys and girls, men and women were given equal opportunity to contest and to enjoy the event. The happy faces of those performing at the event and the onlookers cheering with excitement tell me that it is high time such events become more common in the valley. It is about time these happy changes are normalized in Kashmir.

The new confidence that Kashmiri women have gained is unshakable. This is how it should be. Such events are a ray of hope for us all – that the youth of Kashmir can be part of joyous fests and have fun, like the youth nationally and globally.

These opportune changes are coming at the right time. We have suffered immensely at the behest of the people who don’t want peace to prevail in Kashmir. Events like these are bringing us the joy and comfort that we have sought for so long.

Such events are also great for the local economy, and give a fillip to each sector. The Army had set up at least 48 centers for women who earn money by making souvenirs.

I am kicking myself for missing Jashn e Gurez. I am happy that I interacted with those who were at the event and got to know more about it. Next year it’s on my calendar for sure.

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