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Kashmir Friends Kanyakumari

A real story of humanity beyond religion or call it amity amidst chaos. This tale where an army officer befriends a Kashmiri boy of Handwara town while the officer is on routine patrolling. May be validates Thomas J Watson's famous saying as well.

“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”

Thomas J. Watson


“From Kashmir to Kanyakumari” is an oft-quoted phrase describing the diversity of this country. That diversity often becomes a difficulty for people from these extreme geographies to bond, but not always. All it took for Gawhar Mir to bond with Major Kamlesh Mani was a chocolate and an exchange of pleasantries. This story is testimony to the fact that humanity and love go hand in hand. Major Kamlesh Mani, a native of Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu, has been posted with the 21 Rashtriya Rifles in Handwara town of North Kashmir for one year now.

Major Kamlesh Wani with Gawhar Mir
Major Kamlesh Wani with Gawhar Mir

In the month of August 2020, Major Kamlesh Mani was on his usual patrol route in the Chanjmulla village of Kashmir when he met a young, friendly 16-year-old boy. Mani approached the boy to ask about usual information only to find out that he is both deaf and mute. Mani gave him a piece of chocolate and a friendship took root between Mani and the teenager, Gawhar Mir, a native of the village, was born with a hearing and speech impairment. Major Mani, in an interview, told that after meeting him a couple of times, Mir came to his Army camp. He gifted the teen a pair of shoes and they grew attached. The boy returned with a crate of apples the very next day. Major Mani was not available at the camp at that time, so when he returned only then the teen accepted something to eat. Friendship between them grew so strong that Major Mani sponsored his complete education and have even bought him a smartphone so that they both can connect with each-other.

Mir’s family has nine members, out of which four can’t hear or speak which clearly showed that the disease runs in the family. Major Mani,after meeting Mir’s family, decided to adopt him and to sponsor Mir’s education and pay for medical expenses. Previously, Mir was studying in Class IX in a local Baramulla school but was not happy as he was often beaten up by teachers there. The Major got him enrolled in a school in Handwara, as a teacher for special needs is available there. He paid for the boy’s books, uniform and tuition charges. The family was emotional and happy that someone was helping them. The family has allowed the Major to take him anywhere for the treatment. He was diagnosed with 70% disability, so his chances of speaking or hearing are very low but the Major offered and assured to take him to Delhi whenever he goes there, for a check-up. Despite the ongoing tension in the Valley, Gawhar’s family welcomed Kamlesh with open arms when he promised to help the teenager overcome his disability. The family members of Gawhar and his locality members from Chanjmulla area of Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district hailed Major Kamlesh Mani for sponsoring medical treatment of deaf and dumb boy as he has gained hearing ability after undergoing treatment.

Last year May, Mir’s village came into news when a Colonel, a Major and three other security personnel were killed in action in an encounter with militants. However, Major Mani said there have been no apprehensions since he befriended Mir. The people of Chanjmulla are co-operative. He hopes that his small gesture will change the mindset of the people and help in bringing the Army and the Awam closer to each other. The family members of Gawhar, while speaking to The Times, said that Gawhar has gained 70% hearing ability from his left ear and presently being attended by a Speech Therapist from Srinagar. The medical specialists have suggested coclear implant in right ear to overcome the hearing disability completely, which Major Mani is personally looking after. They said that this is a reason for the entire family to celebrate this occasion and thank Major Kamlesh who is like their son. They said not only the family members but the entire village is thankful to Major Kamlesh for his goodwill gesture. Jameela Begum, mother of Gawhar, said, “I treat Major Kamlesh like my son Gawhar and I thank him for managing everything on his own”. This story has left us teary-eyed, as it is extremely heart warming.

We need to learn friendship from this army major and Kashmiri boy.

The Indian Army has been known for its exemplary contributions (of non-military nature) to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In continuation of its efforts to reach out to the locals, to strengthen the bonding with people in the valley the Indian Army has been relentlessly organizing and engaging with the youth in different forums. In 2018, establishing the state-of-the-art skill development centre at sector 10 Headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Haiderbeg, Pattanarea in Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir was a testimony to the philosophy and commitment of the Indian Army to help the youth of the valley. To sponsoring educational and national integration tours for almost 7800 youth under the aegis of ‘Operation Sadbhavna’. The ‘Winning Hearts and Minds’ programme described simply as a people-oriented process for establishing human, social and political linkages in Kashmir for the common good, contributing to building the concept of nationhood.

Under the programme the Indian Army undertook plethora of civic initiatives for the youth to mitigate the venom instilled in their minds. The Indian Army has come to realise that over the years it has been able to remove the tag of an instrument of the state. And has tacitly stepped into the shoes of being a facilitator and also the protector of the thousands of innocent young minds. It understands that its role as the facilitator in the valley is much more than a tactical or strategic manoeuvre. It is a resolve by men in uniform to come closer to the populace and develop a bond of mutual faith and trust which a soldier enjoys across the country.

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