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In a patriarchal society like Kashmir where a career in sports is considered a heritage of males, many young talented girls are discouraged and disillusioned with the prevailing trends. The society must shun its parochial attitude for a better future, RUWA SHAH reports.

Students from Women's college showing their skills in Thaitang - Photo:Ruwa Shah.

Students of Women’s college showing their skills in Thaitang – Photo:Ruwa Shah.

Football was not only a dream but a passion too” says 19-year-old Mavish Bhatt, a student of Women’s College in Srinagar. Mahvish had wished to lift a national-level football trophy for Jammu and Kashmir. “I had put all efforts to learn the game despite my ongoing studies. I managed to take out time to learn the game and never missed an opportunity to play.” Despite her efforts, Mehvish never realised her dream.

There are many girls in Kashmir like Mehvish who are discouraged from making a career in sports. These girls have been left at the mercy of a parochial society which sees sports as a heritage of males. Disappointed and disillusioned with the lack of infrastructure and professional coaches, many of them have quit the idea of making careers in sports. “Most opportunities are provided to boys not girls. We were criticized for playing in open fields. The taunts that I and many of my friends received from people forced us to quit football,” she says.

Although Mehvish’s family was supportive of her endeavours, she never felt comfortable with the idea. “I never stopped my daughter from playing. She was capable and wanted to play for Team India. But on seeing the conditions herself, she opted out of the game,” says Razyia Bhatt, Mavish’s mother.

Some girls like Shazia claim they were abused while playing in the fields. A Srinagar based girl, who won a gold medal at national level in cycling, she says she always felt threatened of becoming victim of harassment. While the girls in different states of India have set a trend by actively participating in sports and winning laurels, the girls of Kashmir are lagging behind. The apathy shown by the sports faculty at their educational institutes has only worsened their plight.

Consider the situation in Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association; the women cricketers hailing from remote areas like Shopian, Baramulla, Anantnag, Sopore and Budgam have to reach Srinagar early for trials and leave late in the evening which causes a lot of inconvenience. To add to their woes, JKCA has not offered them hostel facilities.

“We don’t have stadiums to play in. JKCA could have built more pitches and turfs but they haven’t done anything significant so far. We conduct trials in the ground of Kashmir University” says Jasiya, 21, perhaps the only gold medallist cricketer of Kashmir.

The sports officials at the university claim they provide unmatched facilities to both boys as well as girls. “We do fair and clear selections of teams. Only deserving students are selected. No bias is shown by our department” District Youth Selection & Services, Officer Srinagar, G M Wani, says.

However, the society has to play a larger role in encouraging girls to take up sports as their careers by considering them equals to males. According to a noted sociologist, there is a social aspect to the dichotomy with which the people see the participation of women in sports. “There are two distinct faces of society. One is the elder, traditional generation which is not exposed to many new things arising in the society like girls earning for themselves. On the other hand, the young girls have a new attitude towards life. It will take time for them to understand the emotions and attitude of youngsters. There will be a situation where the society will have to accept such ideas of youth. The situation will be entirely different after a few decades,” says Dr. Bashir Ahmad Dabla, a faculty member of Sociology Department at Kashmir University.

Despite facing such hurdles, some girls have managed to excel and reached a stage where they have made the society proud. Bilquees Mir was the first international Kashmiri coach of canoeing. She says she had faith in her talent and faced all the difficulties with courage and full support of her parents.

“The association never supported me. I always worked on my mother’s advice and gained strength through her. Girls can top in any field if they show determination and hard work,” she says. She says the girls who face any problems should raise them with concerned authorities to revolutionise the system. “The government should participate actively and investigate any case of discrimination.”

“Our state does not lack talent. The only thing is that the government should consider providing opportunities to the young talent,” a physical education teacher at Women’s College said. The society too needs to let the girls avail those opportunities and shun their narrow outlook.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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