(And he said “hamarey bacchon ke maan mey jo paresani chal rahi hai usko nikal doh Sir, wahi kal ke Kashmiri aur Kashmiryat hain”)
Inara, which represents “one who shines with light,” is our flagship project aimed at creating a platform where the children and adolescents of Kashmir can come together and shine like bright stars in the open sky. Our objective is to help them emerge from their traumatic past and become resilient heroes, transforming into ambassadors of peace, prosperity, and serenity. The people of Kashmir are eager to take significant leaps forward at any given moment.
Inara is one of the flagship projects of Sambhavna-CRACR & PD and is scheduled to be launched in Kashmir. Alongside Inara, we have other projects such as Sakhee, Hifazat, Palash, Udgam, Bal Mitra Bharat, and more in the pipeline.
In January 2023, we conducted our first intervention in Kashmir, where we distributed 200 jackets to different childcare institutions in Srinagar. Additionally, we celebrated the new year with these children through our local partner, The White Globe, led by Junaid and Saba. I am deeply grateful to my colleague Dr. Shafia Wani for introducing us to White Globe. Through White Globe, we were able to connect with the Indian Army’s 15 Corps, also known as Chinar Corps, and had a virtual meeting with the GOC 31 Sub-area. This meeting went extremely well, and as a result, we were invited for an in-person meeting on May 13th, 2023. The Indian Army graciously provided us with a huge hall to start our cultural hub under the Inara project.
My colleague, Ms. Parvati Chandran, Executive Director of our organization and I, decided to attend the meeting and flew to Srinagar on May 10th, 2023. We arrived in Srinagar well in advance of the proposed meeting to assess the current situation in Kashmir and the feasibility of our various projects. We met with several local NGOs and our friend Mr. Feroze, who runs an NGO in Kashmir. Feroze took us to places like Baramulla and Bandipora, where he showcased his team’s remarkable work in the rural areas of Kashmir. While respecting the confidentiality of his projects, I refrain from elaborating on Feroze’s interventions.
During our visit to Baramulla and Bandipora, we interacted with various members of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) for two days. We aimed to assess the feasibility of our project, Bal Mitra Bharat, which involves working with and for children at the PRI level through libraries in designated panchayats. The response and enthusiasm we received were highly encouraging. A sarpanch in Baramulla expressed deep concern for the children, highlighting their exposure to violence and the resulting psychological complexities. He emphasized the need for our platform, Hifazat, to help the children in Kashmir overcome these complexities, as a disturbed childhood cannot lead to responsible adulthood. His point was valid, and I regret not having recorded his statement and the genuine worry reflected on his face.
In Bandipora, we met numerous stakeholders, including women stakeholders. A young Hindi-speaking sarpanch expressed, “Until now, all the NGOs that came here left after distributing charity. Today, we have an NGO telling us to focus on education, regardless of the situation.” This comment demonstrates the eagerness of Kashmiris to move forward and leave the past behind.
All the PRI members we met offered us available spaces in their respective panchayats for setting up libraries. Most of them also requested skilling programs for women and better medical facilities. Surprisingly, many participants were unaware of the Prime Minister’s Aayushman Yojana, despite private hospitals being registered under the scheme. Additionally, it is crucial to address the issue of polluted water in Bandipora promptly.
Our discussions with PRI members and our cab driver revealed that people in Kashmir eagerly await the establishment of industries in the region. They believe this will significantly improve the situation. We strongly feel that Kashmir is grappling with isolation, evident from the acute shortage of properly trained mental health experts (Feroze being an exception). To address this, a substantial number of experts are needed in Kashmir, without taking any shortcuts. The situation is equally challenging in other parts of the country. Another noteworthy observation is that while Kashmiris consider their problems to be unique to the region, many of these issues are shared by developing countries and the rest of India.
Kashmiris are incredibly warm and exceptional hosts. We hope that our projects in Kashmir will bring about positive changes in the lives and perspectives of the Kashmiri people, reintegrating them with the rest of the country.