One of the key highlight of this year’s Independence Day speech was the declarationby the Prime Minister that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved with bullets or abuses but can be solved only by embracing the Kashmiri people. This statement from the ramparts of historic Red Fort brings to the fore the urgent need of putting in sincere efforts to win the heartsof Kashmiri people. During a course of interaction with the Principals and students of few colleges of valley to sense the pulse of valley on the positive statement madeby the Prime Minister, the Principal of a prominent college on the condition of anonymity said, “The Prime Minister’s approach is really heartening. It showcases true statesmanship and a progressive outlook. Every Kashmiri should welcome it with an open heart. I feel it’s time now for all sections of Kashmiri awaam especially the youth tostep forward, choose the right course and march ahead in sync with our Prime Minister for building a peaceful, prosperous and bright Kashmir.”
In complete agreement with the Prime Minister’s statement that it’s just a handful of people who are the problem creators for the rest, the Principal said, “Actually majority of the Kashmiri people are peace loving by nature. They also want to give their children an environment which is safe, peaceful and progressive. Who wants to give weapon in the hands of their young children just to die anytime. Unfortunately some of the youth become victim to the narrative of a handful of anti-nation elements. By the time they understand that they are trapped in a well laid trap, they reach the point of no return. We somehow need to guide the people especially the young blood to ensure that they don’t fall prey to the narrative of anti-nation forces.”
In response to a query, Principal of another college said, “Frankly speaking, winning hearts and minds of people is one of the most challenging tasks.Probably, killing a militant with gun in certain sense is easier than winning the heart. As a nation what we need to understand is that besides fighting militants with weapons, it is of paramount importance that we counter the ideological narrative of secessionist forces with a well planned narrative to wipe off any support or sympathy for them amongst local awaam. Once it is done, the battle will be almost won; akin to militancy of Punjab. Army has been consistently taking a host of adorable initiatives to win the hearts of Kashmiris. However, I feel thatArmy should accord high priority to certain quality projects with high impact value to achieve the desired results.” “Out of all the initiatives undertaken by Army over the years, Kashmir Top Guns is one Project which has impressed me personally. This project made an impact on the mindset of youth of valley that no other project has ever done.
The kind of popularity it gained amongst the youth within a short span of time, is something Kashmir has never experienced before. The project was launched for motivating and training the Kashmiri youth to become officers or soldiers in the Armed Forces.It was run by a highly dynamic, spirited and daredevil young Army officer, Major Surinder Singh under the flagship of top brass of the Army.The officer singlehandedly created an exceptional craze for the Army amongst the school and college youth across the valley with his motivational talks which were the hallmark of a remarkable passion, exemplary conduct and ‘straight from the heart’ approach.What he brought on the table through this project was a large number of youthvolunteering to join Army not to merely get a job but to serve the nation and fight for it as its soldier. More importantly, it was about sowing the seeds of nationalism into the young minds which he did successfully and became a sort of popular Brand Ambassador of the Army amongst the youth in Valley, a rare achievementfor any Army officer in Kashmir,” narrated the Principal indicating towards an excited student showing a picture of the Major Saab clicked during a motivational talk.
Emphasising upon the significance of the Project he added, “This project has a natural edge over the other projects because the impact of one Kashmiri youth becoming an Army officer will be far greater than a thousand youths getting recruited as jawans. Firstly, the presence of a chunk of Kashmiri boys or girls amongst the officer ranks in the Army will enhance the faith of Kashmiris in the Army manifold. Secondly, this will snatch away the reasons from the separatists to a large extent who malign the image of Army by negative propaganda.”
The Principal concluded, “In the larger scenario, it’s actually more of a perception battle. The one who outwits the other in this game will take away the cake. That is precisely what Project Kashmir Top Guns aimed at. Kudos to this young officer for reading this complicated matrix so well, conceptualizing such a historic project and exhibiting a vision far mature than his age. I feel that if we really want to live upto the expectations of our Prime Minister, then the entire machinery deployed in the valley must re-energise and re-channelise itself towardswinning the hearts of Kashmiri awaam living consistently in the painful shadow of guns for decades now.”