Kashmiri youth to adopt village, 25 km from Pune
2 December 2007
The Indian Express
Express News Service
Pune: A group of 100 Kashmiri youngsters has come forward—through a city- based NGO ‘Sarhad’—to adopt a 500-strong village called Perne, about 25 km from here. Beginning January, the group will hold medical camps and tree plantation drives besides taking a look at the situation of employment, roads and electrification of the village. They are even taking a group of women to Vaishnodevi early next year — all this to bring about a change in public opinion. “People perceive us to be a bunch of rich children who have come here to study but lead a better social life,” 25-year-old Shahid Khan, a member of the group who is pursuing an MBA in a city college, says. “During this year’s rave party, our image took a hit. People said ‘mahol kharaab kar dete hain (they are a nuisance).’ People even question our patriotism during cricket matches.” Feroz Hussain, a 23-year-old student of journalism, says their main message is clear. “We are also Indians,” he said. This concept of adopting villages was pushed ahead after talks about Kashmiri migrants — who make an annual trip to Kalewadi — came to fore. “We want to bridge the divide and contribute to the city and its people,” Hussain says. “This movement should sustain even after we return to Kashmir after finishing studies.” As part of this venture, the students scouted the city fringes, identified the village and spoke to the panchayat about the issues plaguing the area. “The response from the villagers has been encouraging. They are with us completely,” says 22-year-old engineering student Fahim Shah, who adds that work in the villages is currently in the initial stages. In the first six months, the group will hold camps and put up cultural shows. “The idea is to have a cultural exchange between Kashmiris and Punekars,” says Shah. The students are sure all this extra work in between lectures would in no way affect their academics pursuits. “It doesn’t take an hour everyday. If the response is good, we can go ahead and think about building hospitals and schools as well,” Shah adds. While initial financial funding is expected from Sarhad, the group is expecting to raise more through contributions for the work carried out thereafter. “The initial expenditure in the first two months is expected to be around Rs three to four lakh, which will come from Sarhad,” says Sanjay Nahar, founder president of Sarhad.