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Few days back, while playing volleyball with my troops undergoing Pre-Induction Training (PIT) at Mazbug Army Camp, I could vividly notice four to five kashmiri youths keenly peeping in through the perimeter security fence in an attempt to observe our casual volleyball game. Their passionate efforts with glittering eyes to take a glimpse of every ‘Smash’ by the soldiers were worthy enough to establish the fact that their endeavors are well intended and not notorious. Also their jovial and excited faces were endlessly radiating positive vibes as if they are urging us to invite them for a game and give them an opportunity to showcase their part of skills.

Indeed, I was apprehensive and security conscious, therefore, called all five of them for an off-the-cuff and casual interaction. Contrary to my assumption that they will try to flee, calmly and quite assuredly they all were on doubles to reach us. Until they could reach us, we were awfully vigilant and our senses were continuously on the job to trace any suspicious moment in lines with our motto of ‘Respect All and Suspect All’. Another inevitable thought rocking my mind in parallel was the overwhelmingly acknowledged narrative about ‘Kashmiri’ youth' that they are not exerting themselves as much as they can due to limited resources, too many distractions and last but not the least the on-going upheaval in valley. The moment, I prompted an informal interaction with them I could perceive unparalleled passion and immaculate desire in them to be active sportsmen. Their overall guise was admiring and hopeful to drive a message that they expected to see sports activities happening in their vicinity too. It took no time to reaffirm my belief and more importantly their own acceptance that sports can happen despite all odds, should someone take an initiative with genuine intent to make a difference. The vibrant and zestful youth in Kashmir Valley with their stripling minds and bodies just like anywhere else in the country are the future of our Nation provided their energies are befittingly steered and navigated in the right direction.

Against the background of sponsored and supported terrorism propagated by handful of Anti National Elements (ANEs) with their vested interests in the Union Territory and nefarious traders of conflict from our Western neighbor, all stake holders in the government are taking innumerable initiatives to restore normalcy and encourage the youth to join the mainstream especially through sports. Limited infrastructure and support base primarily due to blatant politicisation of every single aspect in valley is surely a reality and there cannot be any denial on challenges to deal with issues hampering growth of the sports in the region.

The Indian Army deployed in valley has been continuously making all out efforts to foil reprehensible and immoral misadventures of ANEs, and in addition the organisation has been successfully venturing out to keep the youth away from the path of violence bring misguided youth back to mainstream by aptly backing the constructive voices and sponsoring sports activities. The Rashtriya Rifles Battalion at Sopore has always made an endeavor to engage the youth in a constructive manner and channelise their energy in positive direction. On numerous occasions sports items have been distributed to poor and under privileged youth of Sopore. In pursuance of Army’s on-going efforts under Operation Sadbhavana we have aligned ourselves with the overall aim of this unassuming project and organised number of friendly cricket matches at different venues in the region for local youth.

The conduct of informal friendly matches has provided a platform to the emerging players to showcase their cricketing skills and sportsmanship. At the culmination of every single match we were contented that with our baby yet humble step we could place ourselves much closer to the general sentiment of local youth and have boosted the morale of mainstream voices in the region. The local populace in general and the youth in specific were overwhelmed. Their appreciation for the efforts by security forces, the outflow of sincere gratitude for undertaking such initiatives and their desire that such humane efforts should be continued in future has strongly urged us to continue similar endeavors to include as many of ‘Kashmiri’ youth as possible.

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