Life in Jammu & Kashmir has been a lot different and difficult for the people, especially after the abrogation of Article 370 & 35A in August 2019 and the extended lockdown in the country due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and colleges have been continuously closed since August, businessmen are apprehensive about the economic slowdown due to pandemic, people are afraid of outbreak and community spread of corona virus, Terrorist activities have gone down due to neutralization of its leadership but pockets of resistance are still active.
Today, life in Kashmir is slowly and steadily limping towards normalcy. The effort of security forces and welfare measure taken by the government has shown some positive results. The strength of active terrorists has gone down to very stumpy level. These outfits are looking for new bases, leadership, funds, weapons and new recruits. Valley is standing in the midst of an uneasy calm that can get disturbed at the slightest provocation from separatists or Pakistan.
Somewhere amidst all the chaos of politics and terrorism, is a 12 year old cricketing sensation of Kashmir Valley, hailing from a humble background in Hoshangpura, in Shopian district. Mohd Asraf Wani, who since his childhood has grown up seeing terrorist activities, was unwavering in his thought process to become someone different, someone better. When boys of his age, in the nearby villages were busy throwing stones on the Security Forces, Asraf was busy in his studies and in the free time, he was pursuing his dream to become a cricketer. His favorite activity includes hitting the stumps he had painted on the wall outside his home. This motivated young right-arm leg spinner aspires to be a part of the Indian Cricket Team.
The lock-down situation in the Kashmir valley had no effect on the perseverance of Asraf. The news of this child prodigy spread like fire and he was spotted by the Chairman of the Islamia Cricket Club, Anantnag. With the efforts of his parents and co-operation of Islamia cricket club, Asraf has now moved to Anantnag to become a member of the club and improve his skills as a professional bowler.
He has great records to his credit both in bowling and batting departments. The young talent of Ashraf has impressed many cricket enthusiasts in the area. In a recent exhibition match between Malik Cricket Club, Arwani and Sports Club, Arwani played at MCG ground Arwani, the twelve year old took 5 wickets in three overs, and batting lineup of opposite team crashed like a house of cards in front the spin attack of young boy. He has become an integral part of the Club Team’s XI for all the matches now. Inspired by this young boy other youngsters in the village have started indulging in other games and sports as well.
It is because of Asraf and his parents who have supported him all along this journey, he has emerged as a role model for the people in Valley. People in the nearby villages have got a new ray of hope for a better future. The hard work and perseverance of this young boy has not only changed the mindset of the local populace but has also given a direction to the young children like him to channelize their energy in the field of sports and education, which by the grace of god, will pull them away from the path of separatist mindset and militancy. The thought itself that the situation in the Valley has slowly but steadily started improving after such a long insurgency period and years of bloodshed, is enough to give Goosebumps to anyone.
Kashmir valley has seen violence since last 30 years and its time to move ahead in the path of normalcy and development. This place has always been called as heaven on earth because of its natural beauty and fertile land. Militancy in the valley has taken away the peace, prosperity and future of young generation for last three decades. Continuous protests, revolts, stone pelting and bandhs called by political outfits have benefited none. Moreover this has immensely impacted education system in the valley. There has been a report of burning of school building by the terrorists in the past.
In the times like this, it is the young heroes like Asraf who inspires and motivates the youth to overcome all the hardship and difficulties and to achieve their dreams and now it is the duty of local Kashmiri Awaam that such youths be given an important place in the society and needs to be encouraged. There are lots of opportunities around like entrepreneurship classes are being conducted by various Govt agencies, sports competitions are conducted at district and state level to encourage young sportsmen in the valley. The Heavenly Kashmir Valley is in dire need of young heroes like Asraf (also to include his family), their spirits and our support to motivate the young generationand to help the Valley remain a “Paradise on Earth”.