September 2017 News

PDP Developing Sports As Alternative Track For Youth In Kashmir

30 September 2017
The Economic Times
Hakeem Irfan

Srinagar: The ruling PDP is using sports as an alternative to wean the youth of Kashmir away from activities such as stone pelting and militancy, a move that the party believes would hold out hope for them in troubled times and address the brewing anger among young population of the state. Every day, more than 1500 youngsters gather at an indoor stadium in Srinagar to participate in different sports activities, this at a time when the state has gone through many months of protests and frequent encounters. PDP has used the stadium to re-establish its connection with people and reclaim the public space it lost especially after its coalition with the BJP followed by the 2016 killing and blinding of civilians by the government forces. The party has organized at least four different functions in this stadium, where hundreds of youths took part thus boosting the morale of the party and also helping to bring semblance of normalcy. The stadium is emerging as an alternative space for the youngsters, who PDP believes have little to look forward to, otherwise. In Kashmir, where youngsters mostly interact with government forces and often end up in police stations or jails, J&K state sports council secretary and PDP's youth president Waheed Para held out a message of hope through sports. 'Indoor stadium would be the new outdoor destination for these youngsters and J&K would be number one on the sporting map of India.' 'Here death is a qualification to become a role model. Burhan had to die and Zakir Musa will follow. Youth here see dignity in death. But everybody here doesn't want to become Musa. The youth aspire for a resolution, but seek happiness as well. We want to create a constituency for life and peace, and the indoor stadium is a step in that direction,' Para told ET. Last Tuesday, PDP youth wing organized a membership drive at the indoor stadium in which 1500 youngsters participated. Earlier this month, national Taekwando championship was organized here, in which teams from different states took part. Last year, even when protests were going on, J&K chief minister addressed a gathering of hundreds of youngsters in this stadium and Delhi Public School also conducted an examination in this stadium, as suggested by the ruling government. Besides, Tasaduq Mufti, brother of J&K CM, formally joined PDP from this stadium. 'All these events brought a sense of normalcy and seeing the response in these programs the CM also believed that the situation can be controlled and brought back to normal. We thus want to rejuvenate mainstream youth activity in the state,' Para explained. The sports council has also set up a cricket academy, which is organizing matches regularly in all districts and engaging youth the grassroots, leaving no time or probably space for them to think or act in any other direction. The Sports Ministry of India has already sanctioned Rs 200 crore as a special package to develop sports infrastructure in the state. The J&K sports council has also put in two proposals before the Ministry of Home Affairs for development of sports clubs in villages and other activities. 'Any sport is conflict-neutral. And for the first time, the civil department is taking these initiatives. Otherwise army and police would do these activities in this state. Our focus is on the 69% youth population in this state, especially below 18 who are not even the voting population, but future belongs to them,' said Para.