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Revitalising Youth and Sports in Jammu and Kashmir

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Games and sports are integral part of our life. It plays an essential role in the development of the human resources of a nation. The energy and potential of youth could be channelised for productive and meaningful purposes through games and sports. Jammu and Kashmir has prioritised the promotion of games and sports among the youth. The aim is to use sports to transform the youth into a self-confident, organised, and competent workforce, which could bring social changes and economic development to the region.
Talent is available far and wide, but what is required is identifying such talent at the right time and providing the necessary support system to hone their capabilities. To energise and channelise the energy of youth, Govt of J&K took out a new sports policy on 3 February 2022. Through this policy, Govt has envisioned creating a desired eco-system enabling youth to scale new heights. Since the onset of cross-border in late 1988, the youth and sports of J&K have been affected very badly.
Youth can make a significant and positive contribution toward the efforts of maintaining and promoting peace and security. The youth could play a crucial role in preventing and resolving the problem of terrorism and act as a vital aspect of sustainability and inclusiveness. This could lead to successful peacekeeping efforts and peace-building measures in the region.It is also the sole duty of Governments and Administrative authorities to identify, drive and direct priorities, strategies and activities for restoring peace and security by ensuring youth’s inclusiveness without discrimination.
It is imperative to understand youth’s challenges, especially the inequalities or gender discrimination that put young women at high risk. Therefore Govt should try to enhance women’s empowerment and gender equality. There has been a growing contribution of sports and youth in realising peace and development, promoting tolerance and respect, and empowering youth and women, individuals and communities through sports, health, education, and social and cultural initiatives.
The Government of J&K has initiated several steps in ensuring at least one playfield in every Panchayat, the establishment of over 4500 Youth Clubs and organising several sports activities to empower the youth of the J&K. It is heartening to note that despite constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 17 Lac persons participated in different sports and games activities.
On 14 June 2022, while praising the youth of J&K for huge potential and capability, Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi said that the Indian Army had provided the youth with a platform to showcase their cricketing talent and prepare them for a sporting career at the State (now UT) and National level. The Indian Army’s first tournament in the Jammu region, titled ‘White Knight Cricket Premier League’, was conducted over a month, closely contested between 10 district teams of the Jammu region of J&K.The Indian Army has always promoted sports and games. It will continue to do so in the future.
To engage the youth of Kashmir Valley in numerous sports events, the Indian Army launched the fifth session of the Kashmir Premier League. More than 3200 young people took part in this Kashmir Premier League. About 200 teams from all over the valley participated. Ten out of 200 teams in the first knock-out were nominated for the final of Kashmir Premier League 2022. The critical factor of launching the Kashmir Premier League was to make available a platform for youth to take up sports as their career, shun terrorism, and save youth from drugs and other immoralities.
The Indian Army also organised Jashn-e-Janoob, a sports festival to motivate the youths of Kashmir towards sports activities to reduce militancy in the area.The 15-day-long event, Jashn-e-Janoob, was conducted in Aug 2021. Many youngsters participated actively in the festival and demonstrated various sports skills, including kabaddi, running, and Sky Martial Arts.
The Government of India is trying to make J&K a sports destination by creating world-class infrastructure and introducing a new sports policy for the Union Territory. As per Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council, around 500 athletes have won medals in numerous games at the national level. There has been a colossal revolution in sports infrastructure all over Jammu and Kashmir. Various new stadiums of the international standard have been created, while many others are being built up in various districts of the Union Territory. The Sports Council of Jammu and Kashmir has motivated young people to take sports as a career.
Jammu and Kashmir also got exclusive financial support from the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. A 200-crore package has been sanctioned. Different sports festivals are being conducted in almost every district of Union Territory to hunt for talent in these areas and train them to become professional sportspersons.
The youth of J&K are delighted about the changes in the sports sector. Encouragingly, girls in huge numbers are participating in the sports and representing India at national and international events. The Government has also encouraged sports to protect youth from drugs and other illegal activities. The youngsters who pick up sports make a name for themselves and earn from it. These sports people are inspiring other young minds also.
In the last two years, J&K athletes have proved their mettle. While Arif Khan represented India at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Sadia Tariq won India a gold medal at the Moscow Wushu Championship. Bilquis Mir, Director of Water Sports, also became the first Kashmiri woman to be a judge at the Olympics. And in the IPL, Umran Malik has also made his name by being the fastest bowler in India.
Jammu and Kashmir has enough talent and needs proper direction and a platform to advance in life’s journey. Today sports in J&K are taking a new stride and making a new curve on the peace, security and development graph. The youth and children choose sports as a tool to rise in life and achieve great success. Participating in sports and games could help reduce stress levels and increase feelings of physical and mental well-being. Sports provide physical and mental stress relief, which can help certain mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Psychotherapist Ashley Miller states that anxiety and depression are often triggered or exacerbated by excessive stress levels.
There are two distinct terminologies for sport, i.e. sport plus and plus sport. Sport plus initiatives primarily focus on honing sports skills and increasing sports participation, and they usually involve competitive sports structures. Any potential health, social, psychological and behavioural benefits are seen as a by-product of participation. Essentially, sport comes first, and specific development activities and learning are delivered around sports participation. In contrast, the term plus sports projects are interventions that use sports as a hook for participants, with a primary focus on non-sport aims and objectives, focusing on social benefits, such as health and well-being or conflict management. They prioritise outcomes through behaviour changes, capacity-building and social, cultural and economic impact.
Prevention of radicalisation and terrorism requires increasing inclusion and social cohesion. Sports can play a distinctive role by generating social capital, helping to mobilise communities, and promoting social inclusion and solidarity. Sports can act as a tool for countering terrorism, radicalisation and social tension and promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Sports have long been considered valuable for fostering communication and building bridges between communities. When the threat of radicalisation is looming large, sports and games could provide a platform for counter-radicalisation.

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