Towards a new dawn
THE workings of the Army in Kashmir and its policies have been leaving quite an impact on the local populace. The Army, which was once synonymous with counter insurgency and aspects related to law and order alone, has been carrying out efforts for a massive makeover in the Valley to help and earn the trust of its people. Some unfortunate incidents that had tarnished the image of the Army in Kashmir have become a thing of the past now. People have now started to repose their faith in its working. The paradigm shift has huge takers in the Valley and today, every event of the Army is being managed by the locals in collaboration with different parties. A massive restructuring in their working is leading to social development in the region otherwise bound by its infamous neighbour and its proxies.
We list out some more of the Army’s initiatives.
- Scholarships for orphans and the EWS
Under the Sadhbhavna project, the Indian Army has distributed scholarships to orphans in North Kashmir in order to help them continue their studies. The educational scholarship to orphans is a yearly initiative in which the beneficiaries are targeted and selected among orphans and the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) students. Rs 90,350 each is being distributed every academic year among the deserved ones.
- Debate and quiz competitions
As a part of ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ commemorating 75 years of independence, the Army recently organised a quiz and debate competition in the Kupwara district. The aim was to generate awareness among students about the struggles and sacrifices made by our freedom fighter in wresting independence for the country.
The debate was meant to provide platform to the students to showcase their talent, skills, confidence and knowledge. The event saw a huge participation from surrounding schools in which students voluntarily participated in folk songs, dance and patriotic themes. Later, the Army conducted a prize distribution function so as to encourage and felicitate students.
- Free medical camps
The sole aim of the Army is to reach out to the downtrodden and those devoid of basic facilities. The border districts of North Kashmir and Pir Panjal areas suffer from lack of healthcare facilities. In order to provide medical assistance and inspiration towards hygiene, the Indian Army organised free medical camps in Uri, Baramulla, Rafiabad, Handwara, and Kupwara. It was an outreach programme in which locals participated enthusiastically and took medicines and prescriptions from renowned doctors and nursing assistants. Awareness regarding diseases like jaundice, Covid-19, malaria, diabetes and common fever was shared with attendees. The measures to mitigate the effects of these diseases were discussed with those who attended.
- Play sports, stay healthy
The Indian Army, in the districts of Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara, regularly organise cricket and volleyball tournaments to nurture sports talent among the youth. In Kupwara, the Army organised a volley ball tournament which saw participation from 32 teams, while in Srinagar, a 12-team cricket tournament was organised at the Army headquarters. In the Dangiwacha Rafiabad area of Baramulla, the Indian Army organised men and women cricket tournaments. The women tournament here was first-of-its-kind and is evolving. According to an Army Officer, these tournaments are meant for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir irrespective of gender. These will help build their talent and career in sports, he adds.
Since the youth of Kashmir have gone through a massive battle with drugs and narcotics, these sports tournaments will go a long way in inspiring them to strive for better mental health and prosperity. It’s a sad memory but pertinent to note that radicalisation and militant ideology have destroyed three generations of Kashmir. Even today, the influence of drugs is such that the crime rate, murders and suicides have seen a major spike over the last couple of years. Presently, the Union Territory administration is carrying out a massive war against drugs but the rampant availability of narcotics in the Valley has become an uphill task to be contained.
To keep the youth away from drugs, the famous cricket tournament of North Kashmir, the Kashmir Premier League (KPL), was organised by the Army. The KPL witnessed participation of 224 players and is being viewed as one of the best tournaments in the region organised by Army. The matches were broadcast live on Facebook to involve a larger audience from the rest of the country and the Union Territory in particular.
Asif Plaisar, who runs an NGO in the Kupwara district and is a social activist, has been in touch with KC during this series on the Army. He remarks that the Army should be handed over a greater role to curb the drug menace in the Valley. Says he: “The government must include the Indian Army to curb drug abuse in the Valley. The Army is a disciplined force and has good contacts among the locals. Drug menace can be eradicated only when institutions work in tandem with the civil society, NGOs and the elders of the society here”.
“Initiatives like Super-50, scholarship offers, sports events, developmental work are some remarkable achievements of the Army here. There were some loopholes in the working of these forces earlier but now they have taken the social progress and developmental work by its head. Their efforts are being praised and appreciated by the people of Kashmir today,” he adds.
Well, the happy truth is – the restructuring of the working of the Army has gone down well among the people here. With peace descending on Kashmir and the UT emerging as a top seat for international events, the role of the Army has in fact expanded. The new ambit of the Army shall include all regions of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir which hopes to witness a brand new dawn soon.