by Aqib Nazir
BARAMULLA: The Baramulla district’s athletes have been left in the lurch by the district administration with two indoor stadiums occupied for over a year now.
While one stadium has been occupied by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, the other has been turned into a quarantine centre since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the athletes, the district administration and the Jammu and Kashmir Youth Service and Sports Centre (JKYSSC) have failed to take back the two indoor stadiums from the concerned parties.
Martial Arts player Ashfaq Wani who hails from the district said, “For past one year, we are not allowed to practice or play in these stadiums. Before the onset of winter, we used to play in the open, which isn’t impossible now.”
Wani is a reputed Martial Artist who has trained the Israeli Martial Arts Kravmaga along with being the founder of Kashmir Combative.
“All we want is the evacuation of these people from the stadiums. These stadiums should be thrown open immediately for all sports events,” Wani said.
Another sports enthusiast, Manzoor Mir said, “A stadium is a place for sports and recreation. But unfortunately, in our district, these places have been turned into bunkers.”
He said the people interested in sports are “suffering” due to non-availability of any playing space.
“Every day, I used to go for a morning walk around this stadium but since the forces occupied this stadium, I am not even allowed to walk anywhere near it,” Mir added.
A local man said the sports talent in the Valley is diminishing due to lack of infrastructure.
“Our society is under depression and anxiety. It is these sports centres which act as stress relievers but they too are being handed over for other activities.”
“In other states, governments promote sports but in Jammu and Kashmir, the government is showing no interest in sports activities. This is unfortunate,” he said.
International Taekwondo player, Danish Manzoor, who has won a silver medal in Mahavir National’s said, “I am from Baramulla and have been training here since 2012. But unfortunately, I along with my coach and other teammates cannot train at any indoor stadium in the district. We have two indoor sports complexes in Baramulla which are both closed. One has been turned into a quarantined centre while the other is occupied by government forces.”
In Baramulla, there are only two indoor stadiums for the population of over a million which include Jhelum Indoor Stadium at Stadium Colony situated 1.2 kilometres from the main town while the other one, Indoor Sports Stadium at Khawajabagh is five kilometres from the main town.
It is pertinent to mention that the Indoor Stadium at Khawajabagh area of the district was inaugurated by incumbent Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in January last year but till date, it hasn’t been thrown open for local players.
Earlier, in view of rising Covid-19 cases in the country, many stadiums were converted into quarantine centres, which, however, were transposed back for their original usage except for Baramulla district’s stadium.
District Sports Officer Baramulla Shafiq Ahmad said, “We don’t have any authority to remove government forces or Covid-19 patients from these stadiums. Even Deputy Commissioner Baramulla cannot remove them.”
“We can’t do anything until higher authorities order the removal of these people from the stadiums,” Ahmad said.