Kashmir's First Half-Marathon A Success But Protests Mar Award Ceremony

13 September 2015
Sheikh Zaffar Iqbal

Srinagar: It was the most high profile public event in Kashmir in the memory. The first Kashmir half-marathon in Srinagar drew thousands, mostly students from across the Valley and professional athletes from the rest of the country and abroad. 'I AM THE CHANGE' was the theme of the run, organised to provide people of Kashmir a platform to stand for social causes like saving water, saving the Dal lake, fighting drug abuse and keeping Srinagar clean. The run was also organised to promote traffic awareness, respect for senior citizens and women. Thousands of school and college students across the valley took a lead role in it. Seventy-five-year-old Ghulam Nabi was the oldest participant. An open heart surgery six months ago did not deter him from joining the event. 'I have registered for in the event so that more and more people get inspired to take part in the marathon,' he said. Starting from the Kashmir University campus, 1,000 people ran the 21-km half-marathon and more than 10,000 did a 5-km run along the Dal Lake via the Foreshore Road. 'It is very nice, this place is very cold, don't know how to explain,' said Fagennete, a Jamaican runner. 'I want Kashmiri girls to get good exposure and they should get a change to make Kashmir proud,' said Bilkees, a student of Class 9. But after the half-marathon concluded, things took an ugly turn. Protests had started during the 5-km 'dream run' - which was the second event, with protesters raising pro-Pakistan slogans and Pakistani flag. They pelted stones at the security forces and threw bottles towards the podium. The police finally had to resort to lathicharge to quell the protests and the award distribution ceremony had to be called off. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah cancelled his participation, saying: I was looking forward to a nice, quiet run which wasn't to be. Just as well I was advised against participating.