By Abraham Mathew
Hope, instead of fear, is what Kashmiris seem to have on their minds after the abrogation of Article 370. From long drawn insurgent conflicts, life in Kashmir is slowly moving towards normalcy. The door for growth and development that was locked by the terrorists has now been opened.
The past years of bloodshed should not be the layout for future, I believe what is coming to us is better than what we have faced, says a resident of Drugmulla village in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.
After going through all the hardships in the past, he is now happy to see the changes around him that are leading him and his family towards a better life.
This is the story of Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, aged 62 years, from a village Drugmulla, who has persevered all the difficulties in his life to support his family. Due to financial constraints, he couldn't continue his studies and had to drop out of school after 3rd standard.
The tender age when children are supposed to study and play carefree, he took responsibility as the eldest of three brothers, worked in shops making chapattis to provide food and shelter to his family.
The Renaissance period
Ghulam got married at the age of 25 to Sarvaah and started a new chapter in his life. He
started farming to support his expanding family needs. He was blessed with two sons,
Shaukat and Gulaal. During the early phase of his life, he had realized the importance of education. Thus, he ensured despite all odds to educate his sons. His elder son Shaukat Ahmed is 25 years old and has completed his education while his younger son Gulaal Ahmed is 18 years and pursuing his graduation from degree college, Kupwara. His siblings, a retired police personnel and another a contractor, are taking care of their families and leading a normal life.
Life Started After Working with Army
Motivated by the Indian Army, Ghulam left farming and joined the Indian Army at the age of 59 years as a conservancy staff, proving that age is just a number if you have strong determination. He is happy to render his service to the nation even at this age. His quality of life improved a lot after he started working in the army. “Ab sab accha hai, koi pareshaani nahi hai”, is what he happily says today. He now owns 1/2 acre of land and has also built his own house. Ghulam recalls the changes he has seen through the years since childhood, the time when terrorism was rising, job opportunities were scarce, people feared moving out of their houses, instead of schools and colleges; youth joined the militancy training camps.
The situation is now slowly changing. The people of Kashmir have seen that the Indian Army works for them day and night, not only protecting them against external aggression but also for upliftment of the standard of living of the people of Kashmir.
People today are working with the Indian Army, which is helping in trust-building and at the same time, also giving them job opportunities. Health, education and other sectors are also improving due to private investments. Handicraft industry is also witnessing a boom. The security forces have achieved major success against terrorists and people today no longer live in fear but instead feel more safe and secure. Youth is now moving towards education supported by the army rather than picking up guns.
Timely interaction with the army has instilled hope and faith in Ghulam’s heart and so is the case with many more. His sense of humor is a catch which makes people laugh and today Ghulam feels safe seeing men in uniform all around. That fear of working is no more in his mind as he like many other Kashmiris know that the army is there to protect their interest.
Tough times never last but tough people do. This can be seen from the inspiring story of Ghulam, who is full of hope and despite having a not so easy life, Ghulam’s joyous nature and his excellent sense of humor always leave people around him smiling. Since last few years he has struggled against all the odds but ensured that his children study well and accomplish what he couldn't. He is thankful to the army for giving him an opportunity to work proudly and earn his living. He and many other commoners in Kashmir are live examples for others to see and emulate. The Dark period of the valley is over, and it is witnessing a new dawn with ample opportunities for everyone.