Homegrown terrorists are passé, Kashmir is now all about the homegrown heroes. Perhaps, that was the message delivered loud and clear by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat yesterday when he mentioned the "inspiring" work being done by the two Kashmiris over the last few months.
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"There is a Kashmiri woman sarpanch — Zaitoona Begumji of Chauntliwaar, Gaanderbal. Zaitoona Begumji decided that her Panchayat would fight the battle against corona and along with that, create income opportunities too. She distributed free masks and free ration in the vicinity; at the same time, she distributed crop seeds and apple saplings so that people were not subjected to inconvenience in farming and horticulture," Modi said while lauding the efforts made by the local body chief in rural Kashmir.
With the country listening to his address on the 21st anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas, the Prime Minister went on to list another achievement by a Kashmiri. "Friends, there is another inspiring example from Kashmir. Shriman Mohd Iqbal is the Municipal President of Anantnag. He required a sprayer for sanitization of his area. He was informed that the machine would have to be brought from another town, that too at a cost of Six Lakh Rupees. On this, Shriman Iqbalji, through his own efforts, designed and made a sprayer machine, and that too at a cost of Fifty Thousand Rupees."
It isn't for the first time that Modi has discussed Kashmir, or mentioned Kashmiris, in his programme. Last year, he had said that people of Jammu and Kashmir prefer development over bombs.
"When I came to know about the community mobilisation programme from Mohammad Aslam of Shopian and found out the details, I realized that people of Jammu & Kashmir want good governance and prefer development over bombs."
Having suffered badly from terrorist violence and separatism supported from across the border for decades, the Kashmiris are now enjoying their moment in the sun.<img class="wp-image-6940 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/b63c9806f21d321d9e0c8825156d25fb.jpg" alt="" width="291" height="386" /> Zaitoona Begum
In high spirits since yesterday, Zaitoona Begum, a mother of four, said she would redouble her efforts for the development of her village.
"My eldest daughter was married a few months back. She could not get education beyond Class X. I don't want that to happen to any other daughter of our village and I am confident the Prime Minister would personally take interest in the overall development of education and healthcare of this village," she told IANS while thanking the PM for giving free ration to the poor people during the pandemic.
There are several other achievers from the valley—like cricketers Abid Nabi, Parvez Rasool, Wasim Iqbal, Aamir Hassan and Iqra Rasool or 12-year-old kickboxer Tajamul Islam—who may not have been lucky enough to be mentioned by the country's PM but continue to inspire the youth, not just of Kashmir but the entire country.
An engineering graduate from the Gopal Pora village of the Anantnag district, Iqbal is also the opener of the Indian physical disability cricket team. Last year, he was also the hero, and the man-of-the-match award winner, of Indian team's superb victory against Pakistan during the first T20 Physical Disability World Championship in England.<img class="wp-image-6936 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/iqbal.jpg" alt="" width="770" height="433" /> Wasim Iqbal, opener of the Indian physical disability cricket team
Iqbal had told this reporter how, after a leg surgery went wrong during childhood, he chose to pick up a bat instead of choosing the wrong path like several other youngsters of his highly volatile district.
Fast bowler Amir Hassan too had a similar story to tell while Iqra became a role model for many females of the valley by representing the state at the national level in spite of coming from a conservative village in Baramulla.
"When it comes to talent, I am no way less than young Tajamul or any other female cricketer of the country. Yes, if the facilities continue to improve here, then we will see many Kashmiri women bagging laurels for the country in future," says Iqra.<img class="wp-image-6939 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/iqra.jpg" alt="" width="916" height="570" /> Iqra Rasool with Mohd. Azharuddin, former captain of the Indian cricket team
Things are indeed looking up in the valley since the abrogation of Article 370 and creation of the new Union Territories, last year.
The Rs 80,000-crore development package announced for Jammu and Kashmir will bring in enormous changes in the lives of Kashmiris over the next few years.
The full economic potential of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions is being realized finally, from local industries to agriculture.
The recent central government's decision to give Geographical Indication (GI) certificate for saffron grown in Kashmir valley has further given a big hope to the farmers of the region.
Saffron, one of the most valuable spices of the world and widely used in Kashmiri cuisine since time immemorial, is also known for its medicinal values.
In India, the annual demand for saffron is 100 tons per year but its average production is just about 6-7 tons per year. Hence a large amount of saffron is being imported. The cultivation area of saffron too had fallen to just 2825 hectares of land in Jammu and Kashmir, a sharp decline from 3715 hectares in 2009-10 and 5707 hectares in 1996.
Labeling the GI tag decision as a "historic" one, Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu said that the valley's brand will be back on the global map very soon.
With things moving in the right direction and Kashmir returning to normalcy with local radicals and those from Pakistan wiped out completely, not just saffron but entire Kashmir will also certainly be back on the global map for all the right reasons very soon.