Youngsters gather in terror-hit south Kashmir to work towards peace and engagement

By Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu

It was a week ago when 17 year old Deepika Bhatt a kashmiri migrant staying in Jagti camp in Nagrota crossed the Jawahar tunnel to step foot into Kashmir, for the first time since her parents left in the 1990’s, leaving behind property and memories of home in Budgam in central kashmir.

She is among 50 youth from Jammu kashmir and Ladakh who have been training in South Kashmir’s Pehalgam developing skills on social media. One of the first such initiatives in terror hit region.

The youth brought together under aegis of “Yakjah” literally meaning “together”. An initiative of Kashmiri Pandit activist Ashima kaul to bring the youth of three regions together. The initiative which began in 2005 got impetus when Mehbooba Mufti’s close aide Wahid Para brought mostly all youth under 30 to the tourist destination.
Deepika, an NCC student who dreams to join the Indian Army says ” My parents and I were scared but then the organisers convinced my father.” I am so happy to be here and Kashmir is not as bad as sometimes people say.” while the group will pack its bags on wednesday after a ten day course, it has been an enriching experience.

Youngsters took part in discussions, debates and made the most of other activities in the workshop

Another 17 year old Wahid Lone is from South Kashmir’s Tral, hometown of Hizbul poster-boy Burhan Wani. While kashmir plunged into cycle of violence, Lone says he kept himself busy with studies. He aims to be a mainstream politician. Tech savy, wahid has like most youngsters a facebook and instagram profile. He attended a training course in Chandigarh and came to Pehalgam for training of trainers. Lone says, “I have learnt so much from here, one day I plan to use skills on use of social media to build my career.”

Organisers had held the workshop in Budgam and Srinagar in 2010. But this time, they decided to organise it in South Kashmir, the hotbed militancy.

The youngsters made the most use of opportunity bonding over workshops, debates, discussion and trekking and cycling in scenic hills of Pehalgam.

All this in trouble torn South kashmir. While some of them witnessed stonepelting, the ones from Jammu talked of ceasefire violations.

A student says ” we heard what youth from each region had to say. And now there is clarity on so many issues as well. There seems to be misunderstanding of youth of kashmir”

Ashima kaul the brain behind the the yakjah network says the idea is to work selflessly for peace building in J&K, training for engagement of youth.”

Wahid Para an alumni of the same organisation says it is pay back time. ” This brings together youth with Passion, compassion and coexistence and who aspire to be together.”

Ashima and Wahid are aided by Manish Pandey, brand manager of Josh talks, made on lines of Ted talks and claimed to have developed social media skills of 15000 students in 500 colleges in India.

This is one of the first venture into South kashmir. Another team is Aniket an IIM Ahemdabad alumni who has been part of PM rural development scheme.

Manish says “The idea is to help these youth in skill development and use of socialmedia for painting the real image of Kashmir. Besides this will help them to be enterprenuer skills. They can use Facebook, instagram for marketing products to communicate their thoughts effectively. We are here to volunteer and help youngsters with start ups.”

The organiser hope the bond will bring the youth together.

Source: India Today

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