Around 32 such athletes from J&K have won 32 medals in 2021 alone. It’s a huge achievement. Albeit, it has not been celebrated in the media as it should have been,” said Bakht…reports Anas Mohammed(Delhi based journalist)
Behind the vale of conflict in Kashmir lie the stories of success of ordinary Kashmiris. Even girls studying in Class V are shining on the national stage. Nawreen Zahoor and Sadiya Mushtaq are two such little girls who have brought laurels to the UT by winning gold and bronze medals in little known Pencak Silat championship held in Haryana in December.
Both Nawreen and Sadiya are classmates and started practising for the game when they were in Class UKG. They study in RP School in Nagarbal, Ganderbal. “These girls developed a passion for the martial arts in their households. Seeing their penchant for the game, we decided to promote them and got them admitted in a local academy run by coach Murtaza Bakht,” said Zahoor and Saniya Mushtaq, father and elder sister of Nawreen and Sadiya.
Penchak Silat is an umbrella term for a class of related Indonesian martial arts. It is a full-body fighting form incorporating strikes, grappling and throwing in addition to weaponry. Every part of the body is used and subject to attack. Pencak Silat has been in practice not only for physical defence but also for psychological ends.
Both Nawreen and Sadiya had to spend one to two hours at the Iron Fist Wing Chun martial arts academy run by Bakht. “Being from Kashmir, I knew these girls have strength as they consume pure milk and fruits. I only have to teach them basic nuances of the game and tricks to manoeuvre opponents. They picked up these skills well,” said Bakht.
Bakht added that there are around 80 students, majority of them girls, at his academy in Ganderbal. “It is not a very state-of-the-art kind of setup. It’s just a make-shift arrangement in a school. There are not even indoor facilities and athletes have to sweat it out in the open. Yet, they excel. It’s their determination to pursue their dreams. Around 32 such athletes from J&K have won 32 medals in 2021 alone. It’s a huge achievement. Albeit, it has not been celebrated in the media as it should have been,” said Bakht.
Bakht added that the civilian authorities had supported only in the name of issuing approval to his academy so that he could take athletes to take part in the national championships. “Otherwise, only the CO of the Army has supported monetarily from time to time. He also came to congratulate and encourage these girls when they returned with medals,” said Bakht.
After their medal-worthy performance, both Nawreen and Sadiya look forward to participating in international championships. “We have proved our mettle at the national level, now we want to perform in the Olympics and win medals for our country,” they told this correspondent. However, coach Bakht said that they are pre-teen and any event at international level is for teenagers. “So, they will have to wait a little,” said Bakht.
When asked how they manage sports and their education, Nawreen and Sadiya said that they always practice after their classes are over. And any special diet regime they follow? “We eat whatever our parents serve. Yes, we eat heavy breakfast. Ultimately, we have to be strong enough for the martial arts and life,” they said.