Jammu, 28 April: As long as Kashmiris play with bats and not guns, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sees no problem in a cricket league that glorified young militant commanders with teams named after them.
The controversial cricket league that concluded recently in a south Kashmir town was organised in memory of Khalid Muzaffar Wani, the slain brother of Burhan, 21, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, who has become a new face of Kashmir insurgency.
Of the 16 participating teams, three — “Burhan Lions”, “Khalid Aryans” and “Aabid Khan Qalandars” — were named after young commanders of the present age militancy. Burhan’s brother was killed by the army when he went to meet the militant commander who was apparently hiding in a forest, near south Kashmir’s Tral town, his family alleges.
Security forces claim Khalid, an active gunman, was killed in a shootout in April last year in the thick Tral forest. As the mystery surrounding his killing has still not been cleared up, his friends say they organised the cricket tournament to remember him a year after his death.
But the tournament sent Kashmir political circles into a tizzy with the ruling PDP and opposition National Conference trading barbs, and jeering at each other.
National Conference president Omar Abdullah teased Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with a cheeky tweet, reminding her that all this was happening in the PDP’s south Kashmir bastion from where she got elected to the Lok Sabha.
“Lest we forget, this south Kashmir being mentioned is Mehbooba Mufti’s Lok Sabha constituency,” the former chief minister wrote on twitter, attaching a link to the cricket tournament story carried by the daily Indian Express.
PDP’s Nayeem Akhtar, who is also the education minister in the Mehbooba government, said on Thursday there was no problem in naming cricket teams after local youth who had become militant commanders, because there is still “a definitive change in the general mindset”.
“Isn’t it encouraging that youth, even when influenced by militant icons, choose to play harmless game of cricket than take up guns,” Akhtar said, adding youth have to be won by creating a credible governance system where justice is denied to none.
The minister returned the jibe at Abdullah, blaming the previous National Conference government for youth falling in militant traps. Burhan is believed to have joined the militant ranks after he was allegedly harassed by security forces when Abdullah was the chief minister.
“This is what we are facing, courtesy the terror unleashed by the Omar Abdullah-headed government in the past,” Akhtar said.
The minister recalled National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah’s recent controversial remark when he said “the love for Pakistan is innate to hearts and minds of Kashmiris”.
“The alienation of the youth is something we are trying to reverse by creating space, confidence and gainful engagement for the local youth”.