New Delhi: From the streets of upmarket Srinagar, where she emerged as the face of angry women students throwing stones at security forces, it was a dream walk for football lover Afshan Ashiq through the corridors of North Block where she met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old Ashiq, captain of Jammu and Kashmir's all-woman football team which called on the minister, said she was pleasantly surprised to see how he wasted no time in redressing their grievances over the lack of sports-related infrastructure in the state.
"When we told the home minister that Jammu and Kashmir lacks sports infrastructure, he immediately called up the Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) and requested her to do the needful to help us," Ashiq, who is from Srinagar, said.
Ashiq, who defends the 24-foot-long and 8-foot-high goal post for her team, said the youth in Kashmir Valley was talented and all that they required was a platform.
"The minister also told us that Rs 100 crore had already been sanctioned (under the Prime Minister's special package) for the state," the captain of the CM’s-XI team told PTI.
She agree that her life and career had made a remarkable U-turn since the days when her picture was splashed in the national media as a stone pelter. The same hands that threw stones at the forces now ward off many a hard kick as she guards the goalpost.
"I don’t want to look back. My life has changed for ever. I want to be an achiever and do something to make the state and the nation proud," said Ashiq, whose life story may soon be turned into a biopic now that a renowned Bollywood filmmaker is planning to make a film on her.
During the 30-minute meeting with Singh, the team members conveyed to him that if proper infrastructure -- such as training facilities -- came up in Jammu and Kashmir, the youth could be motivated to hone their talents and bring laurels to the state, staying away from terrorism and other unlawful activities.
Team manager Tsering Angmo said the sports infrastructure in the border areas was particularly poor and needed urgent attention so that young Kashmiris could be weaned away from illicit acts. "With proper infrastructure in place, the youth can take up sports to nourish their talents and no one can brainwash anyone. No one will join terrorism or indulge in stone pelting," Angmo, who is from Ladakh, said.
Ashiq and Angmo thanked Singh for listening to them and for speaking to the chief minister about their problems. Later, the home minister tweeted, "Met the young and energetic girls of JK's first ever Women Football Team. They are highly motivated and driven when it comes to football."
Met the young and energetic girls of J&K’s first ever women football team. They are highly motivated & driven when it comes to football. Playing the role of new age ‘Gender Benders’ these girls are setting an example for others to follow. I wish them success and a great future. pic.twitter.com/3ZlMwhzkXm— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 5, 2017
He also said they were examples for others to follow. "Playing the role of new age 'Gender Benders', these girls are setting an example for others to follow. I wish them success and a great future," he tweeted.