Amid the grief and despondency, stories of resilience and success have been emerging from the various camps in Jammu which are home to thousands of Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley.
Many children, who were born and brought up in the tents and camps, have excelled in various fields and moved to different cities and countries.
The Jagti camp had a moment of pride when in 2017 Kashyap Neha Pandita became the first displaced Pandit girl to clear the KAS examination.
Originally from a village in Shopian district of south Kashmir, Neha’s family was forced to leave Kashmir in 1990. She spent her childhood in camps without basic amenities, lived with her family in tents and then in one-room shelter at Mishriwala and then in the Jagti camp.
Sahil Pandita, who’s parents also were forced to flee the Valley in 1990, was born and brought up in tents at various camps before finally the family moved to the Jagti township.
In Kashmir, his family owned two houses and canals of orchards, but here they started from scratch.
“Like others, we too had a tough time but our parents did not give up on our education. And they did not lose hope. Perhaps that built a positive attitude inside me. I did not go for a regular job. I opened a sports academy. The initial two years were very difficult because no parent wanted his child to take up sports. But today I have so many children,” Sahil said.
He added that the government did not provide him any help. Even though the township has a ground, it was not maintained by the government.
“Whatever I have today is from the help that I got from within my community. They helped build the infrastructure here. In fact, we have a cemented badminton court. The government has not done anything. It is the good people within my community who helped me,” Sahil said.
Sahil’s ‘Rising Athletes of J&K’ has been coaching children from the camps.
“We have seen so much misery that it has created a will to do and rise. I want all the kids in the camps to take up sports as it helps imbibe the spirit of competition in a healthy way,” he said.
Sahil’s academy has been participating in district championships and the number of participants from the camp has been growing. There were two championships last year. In the first, 26 children participated and in the second 47 children took part.
“That is my success,” he said.
(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)