35 lakh people associated with sports in JK: Nuzhat Gull

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 21-08-2022
A football match in progress at the recently renovated Bakshi stadium in Srinagar
A football match in progress at the recently renovated Bakshi stadium in Srinagar


Nakul Shivani/New Delhi

The abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, heralded a new dawn, not just politically but also opened doors to newer vistas for the youth of the valley.

It gave them the license to dream big.

One of the avenues they could now explore fearlessly was the physically strenuous, mentally tough yet very constructive field of sports.

Recognising the hunger for opportunities, a way out from the dreadful life of self-imposed curfews and fear of the unknown, the government stepped in proactively. It decided to hand-hold the youth and help them chase their dreams.


“Today there are close to 35 lakh people associated directly or indirectly with sports. Consider the sportspersons, their parents, coaches, administrative staff, spectators. This is a huge participation,” says Nuzhat Gull, Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council.

As the ground situation improved, to compliment the peaceful atmosphere, government pumped in immense resources. Today every district has a sports stadium including 57 floodlit ones. There are Khelo India centres, NIS trained coaches and scouts to unearth talent at the grassroots level.

“We are engaging the youth of the valley. They are out playing till late evenings, something unheard of till a few years back,” adds Nuzhat.

Dronacharya awardee, Wushu coach, Kuldeep Handoo says, “Earlier people wanted to play but there was no infrastructure and the evenings were short. Now things have drastically changed. There is a proper place where kids can train. They can stay out late.”

What Handoo emphasises can be gauged from the fact that the union territory now has close to 50,000 registered Wushu players.

“Not just for Wushu, there are centres for all sports. The right message is going down to the people. Each district gives kids opportunity to play and excel,” adds Handoo.

Thousands of youngsters are registering for training in martial arts sports in the state

The results are showing.

Many players from the Union Territory are returning with medals from international competitions. Wushu, Fencing, Pencak Silat have seen Kashmiris bring glory to the country.

Ayeera Chisti and Ansa Chisti won a gold and silver medal at the international Wushu championship held in Georgia recently. Aqsa Gulzar returned from Malaysia with a bronze medal in Pencak Silat earlier this month.

“Earlier Asian games and Olympics were too far for people here. It was beyond their imagination. Now they can feel this can be a reality,” says Ankit Sharma a Table Tennis coach who trains under 14 kids at a Khelo India centre in Ramgarh.

Why should they not dream big now. After all, the government has developed modern infrastructure facilities across the state to match with the best in other parts of the country. There is an athletics synthetic track at Awantipore and a refurbished Bakshi stadium was recently inaugurated by the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha in Srinagar.

Nuzhat Gull interacting with sportsperson in Baramulla (Image: Twitter)

Sadia Tariq who won a gold medal at a Wushu championship in Moscow earlier this year, is now dreaming of winning an olympic medal.

“My dream is to win a gold for the country at the Olympics,” says Sadia.

Today there are thousands from the union territory who share this dream.

40 athletes from Jammu and Kashmir were part of preparatory camps for the Olympic qualifier championships in different disciples. Arif Khan went a step further and became the first Indian skier to qualify for two events at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year.

Martial arts teams participating in the inauguration of a championship in Bakshi Stadium, Srinagar

Sports has given parents hope of a proper life beyond the turmoil for their children.

“Parents are seeing great potential in sports. It is a great diversion from drugs and militancy the state had got tired of,” says Handoo.

“To help children lead a fruitful life you need role models. And what better role models than sportspersons. The government has made sports a priority department,” says Majid Yousuf, a former footballer and now an active sports management expert.

“Sportspersons are great ambassadors of peace and harmony. The government realized this fact and is working on it,” he adds

Sports was always a passion for the local Kashmiri. The state has given footballers, cricketers to the country. But what was missing was the government-people partnership to make it a mass movement to produce world class athletes.

Sports is gradually becoming a mass movement in the Union Territory

“Look we have the best weather in the country, the people are very hospitable. We are physically strong, fit for sports. What was missing was the right direction. Today we have that. We are on the right track. Things will only look up from here,” says Majid.

Far away from the images of gun totting armymen patrolling deserted streets, Kashmir is witnessing normalcy to be the normal here. It is no mean feat to see stadiums filled, children make a beeline for training with the best coaches with the best infrastructure possible.

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As Nuzhat Gull aptly puts it, “This is the golden era of sports in the state. It keeps youngsters occupied constructively. We are doing good. We will get better.”