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Delhi wows little Kashmiris

Manzoor Ahmed Dar has spent his last two weeks relishing small freedoms and marveling at big changes.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2009 23:44 IST
Ritika Chopra

Manzoor Ahmed Dar has spent his last two weeks relishing small freedoms and marveling at big changes.

On Saturday, when he leaves the Capital to head back home, he'll leave with memories of a life that does not have a parallel in the Kashmir Valley.

“Your day here does not start with sun up and end with sun down. In my town (Beewah) life comes to a standstill after 6 pm. All shops are closed and people hardly venture out then. That’s how things are in the Kashmir Valley,” he said, while trying to illustrate what he would miss most about his days spent in the Capital.

Dar, along with 40-odd children (all from an orphanage called Apna Ghar in Beewah), is part of ‘Know India’ tour that is organised by an NGO called Sarhad.

The tour, which aims at dispelling misconceptions and misunderstanding that Kashmiris have about the country, takes at least 50 children from violence-prone areas of Kashmir to Maharashtra and Delhi every year.

Thirty-five out of the 40 children (between the ages of seven and 17) from Apna Ghar on this trip have been victims of militancy in the valley.

“Barring one or two boys, every one you see here is on his first trip outside J&K. In the last two weeks, they’ve discovered an India that's distinctly different from what they have known all their life,” said Kadir Mir, the caretaker of the boys from the orphanage.

Ever since they left Apna Ghar on February 14, the boys have been to Pune, Nagpur and Delhi. They reached the Capital on Wednesday and have visited the Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Rajghat, Nizamuddin Dargah and several other places of historical significance.

Among the several firsts that they have experienced in the last couple of days, it was their meeting with Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit on Friday morning that had them quite excited. "Back home, the police and army is our only contact with the establishment. We've never met or seen the politicians there. But on this trip we fearlessly shook hands with the policemen and today we even met the Chief Minister," said Manoor Ahmed Mir.

The boys leave for home on Saturday morning, but many with the hope and dream of returning soon.