With the military keeping a hawk eye, civilians in Kashmir valley strive for normalcy in their everyday lives. Recently, cops in Srinagar were subject to stone-pelting by Kashmiris, including a bunch of girls who dream of playing football for the Indian team one day.

“Yes, I pelted stones. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to play at the national level for India,” Kashmir’s first female football coach Afshan Ashique, 21, told TOI.

Afshan is a second year student at Government Women’s College studying Bachelor of Arts. Talking about the stone-pelting incident, Afshan recalled that she along with her team of 20 girls of the Government Higher Secondary School, Kothi Bagh, were on their way to their playground for practice when they saw some boys pelting stones at the police across the road, near Pratap Park.

Afshan asked the girls to maintain calm and not to move. The boys were pelting stones in order to protest against the cops outside Pulwama Degree College since last week. However, the cops thought the girls had also pelted stones at them. So they came near the girls’ group and reportedly slapped one of them and called them names, triggering the stone-pelting.

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The police, on the other hand, have a different story to tell. They said that the girls started pelting stones because they thought that the police would not react to their actions.

“Police and CRPF have been maintaining maximum restraint, which is evident from the fact that no student was hurt,” the officer said.

The college principal and professor, Shagufta Yavas, revealed that a group of boys from SP Higher Secondary School broke into the women’s college earlier in the same day and tried to instigate the girls to participate in stone-pelting. However, only a few joined the protest, according to Yavas.

“It’s the Army, CRPF and police I am angry with. I saw a video in which the CRPF was beating a woman. I am not afraid of them. I am ready to pelt them with stones,” an angry Afshan said.

“People in Kashmir are dying day in and day out. The state is crushing us from all sides. How can we stay aloof from what is happening? The time has come for a decisive phase to end the Kashmir problem once and for all,” said another angry Class XII student of the Kothi Bagh Higher Secondary School to The Hindu.

However, one thing Afshan is clear about is that she wants to play football for the country. “I am clear in my mind that our future is with India. I debate with stone-pelters and try to persuade them to come to the field and play football instead. The solution to the conflict might emerge from sports,” said the player.

It has been half a decade since Afshan started playing football. Apart from playing, she has also been coaching young girls in the sport under a state government initiative.

Picture credit- U4UVoice

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