SRINAGAR: Bilquis Mir has become face of water sports for Kashmiri girls. She has been part of the National Water Sports team as a coach for the last eleven years.

In the month of February she was again selected as a coach to prepare girls for International events.

Bilquis has her own story like any other sports girl from Kashmir valley. With support of her parents and Kashmir society she carved a niche for herself and is presently busy training the Indian team for the Asian Canoe Slalom championship to be held at Thailand. Bilquis is presently training dozens of Kashmiri girls and has started a water sports academy her in Srinagar with the help of the government.

In the recent past Kashmiri girls have brought laurels and fame showing how deeply they are embedded in the traditional culture of tolerance and encouragement. From a sleepy village of Pulwama which was the epicenter of the 2016 unrest Rashida Simnani,17, clinched the bronze medal in belt wrestling at the national level school games at Pune which was organized by the National School Games Federation of India.

Rashida is studying in Pulwama and has really slogged to participate in sports, because of financial constraints. She has got support from the local people who have encouraged her all through.

Girls in Jammu and Kashmir have been reaching new heights in sports, studies and other extracurricular activities. Mitali Dogra, a young Kashmiri girl, has won laurels as a gymnast. She recently participated in the Glasgow games and made a name for the state. She has taken up jobs to earn money so that she could participate and train as a gymnast. Mitali has shown that the girls in Jammu and Kashmir state cannot be bogged down in violence and uncertainty and their talent cannot be curbed.

Recently in the field of gymnastics Jammu and Kashmir bagged 11 medals including six gold and five silver medals in the All India Inter-University championship held in Chandigarh.

While girls are shining with pure talent and with no pulls and pressures from society especially in Kashmir, some young budding sportsmen have also hogged the headlines in the recent past. A young boy Omar Nazir has emerged as Kashmir’s new cricket star, selected to play for the North zone T-20 squad along with players like Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and Harbhajan Singh. Unfortunately many media channels again tried to portray Omar Nazir as an answer to Burhan Wani phenomenon as incidentally he too belongs to the same Pulwama district of the slain Hizbul commander.

The talent of youngsters is still being hijacked by politicians to portray it as their own achievement. Two young football players from Kashmir Basit Ahmed and Mohammed Asrar were really forced to have photo-ops with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Governor N.N.Vohra and finally with President Pranab Mukherjee before they went to Spain to take part in the Spanish football league La-Liga. They were accompanied by DG CRPF Durga Prasad to President Pranab Mukherjee as the CRPF said that they have financed and patronized these football players, thus dimishing their talent and achievement and trying to make them fit a specific narrative of Kashmir.

If the politicians delink sports and talent from getting brownie points out of such activities, there is lot of promise and hope that in the field of sports the girls of Kashmir will participate and excel more and more. The Zaira Waseem incident has been a lesson for all politicians to please leave the talent out of the ambit of their political games and allow the youngsters to flourish and enjoy their achievements, without making them controversial by trying to fix them in the narrative and counter narratives of Kashmir.

The silent and steady march of Kashmiri girls in different fields to achieve their goals is the real answer to all those arm chair media analysts at New Delhi who leave no opportunity untouched to portray Kashmir society as regressive and Talbanized. Had it been the case we could not have got Rashida from the remote village of Pulwama to become a gymnast. Such achievements by Kashmiri girls reinforce the hope that our society will always remain vibrant and not curb female talent.