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Sports in Kashmir | Promises and Policy
Revoking of article 370 was materialized in August 2019. Then in February 2022, the government of Jammu & Kashmir took a new sports policy, trying to energize and channelize the force of the youth generation as they as well as sports activities were badly affected since the onset of cross-border in 1988. Several promises on the establishment of infrastructures such as one well-equipped playing field, the establishment of nearly 4500 youth clubs, and their several sports activities were mentioned in the new policy for the development of sports in Kashmir.
The Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council had also promised to construct many stadiums of international standard. Even the Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council had urged that the youth generation could also take up sports as their career. The BJP-led central government had reportedly sanctioned nearly a 200-crore financial package for the overall development of sports in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council claims they have brought insurgency in sports in Kashmir and the state. The effort by the central government to make Jammu & Kashmir a sports hub is all set to materialize. The Sports Council’s top brass claims they have already set up the infrastructure of international standards and made the appointment of qualified coaches in each place of the state that has been impressively driving the youth generation to take up sports.
But the scenario of athletics in both Jammu & Kashmir is completely different according to state athletic association people as well as the athletes also. The secretary of the Jammu Athletic Association (JAA) Sharat Chander Singh talking over the phone from Jammu explained,
“Jammu does not have a synthetic track. Where will the athletes train? One synthetic track has been constructed in Pulwama by a private institution but they take charge if anybody goes to practice there. That is why the athletes in Jammu cannot go there. They train on the grassy track and coaches are there but not up to that standard. Naturally despite participating in the national-level athletic championships our athletes cannot achieve medals.”
The same adverse situation is also seen in Kashmir. Talking over the phone from Srinagar, the vice-president of Jammu & Kashmir Athletic Association (JKAA) Tufail Ramzan Bhat lamented saying,
“After the demise of Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council’s athletic coach Sheikh Tulal in 2021, athletics in Kashmir has almost stopped. Players are there. Even talented athletes are also there. But if they do not get the support of infrastructure it will not be possible for them to prosper.”
Sports in Kashmir | No Effect on Athletics after Revoking Article 370
According to these two state athletic association officials, athletics has obtained no support for its development. Ramzan Bhat clarified,
“Among the last three years, except the one-and-half year for Covid-19 and lockdown, a few indoor stadiums have been constructed but they are not international standard. For example, The Sports Council has built a badminton hall in Lalchwak but with a cemented floor. The Badminton hall should have been built with wooden floors. We heard that Bakshi Stadium will be renovated with synthetic turf along with its usual football ground. But no synthetic turf has been laid. Even the budget was sanctioned for the synthetic turf. We do not know where the money has gone.” Sarat Chander Singh revealed, “We have heard the central government has allotted a budget for the construction of seven synthetic turfs in Jammu & Kashmir. But I do not know when the construction will begin.”
The performer amidst the obstacles
Amidst the lack of facilities, Kashmir has got an 18-year-old boy, Ritwik Sharma this year who earned the gold medal in the 6-KM national cross country athletics meet, held in Nagaland. Ritwik, talking over the phone from his residence at Salalpur
In Kathua district said,
“I practice on the road along with my brother Karan as we do not have any track. While running on the rough roads we often get injuries. But we have no alternative.”
Ritwik’s father is a labor farmer who works in a ‘mandi‘. He is settled in Jalandhar. Ritwik is looked after mainly by his coach, retired army officer Captain. J. C Sharma. The 70-year-old coach talking over the phone from Salalpur said,
“Ritwik has immense talent. Otherwise, within a gap of only two hours, he could not have won two medals, silver in 5 Kilometers, and a bronze in 1500 meters event in the North India Youth National championship in Karnal this year. More significantly, having started for Karnal from his home at dawn, Ritwik was extremely tired when he reached Karnal. Still, he could be able to beat those athletes who were training at Sports Authority of India (SAI) center in Patiala.”
Incidentally, even after having won medals in National Cross Country meet and North Indian Youth championship, Ritwik has not received any felicitation from J & K Sports Council so far.
Ritwik’s and Sports in Kashmir’s Future
Captain J.C. Sharma informed that he has been trying honestly for Ritwik’s job in the army. Secondly, he has also decided to ask the J & K Sports Council secretary to take initiative for the construction of a quality infrastructure so that Ritwik can make his training more intense. He said,
“Ritwik has to train on the road which is very risky from all aspects. We have a stadium in the Kathua district but that is too far from Ritwik’s home. I will talk to the sports council secretary. If nothing materializes then I have plans to take my student to SAI Patiala for trials.”