Jammu, Aug 4 (IANS) After taking students from Jammu and Kashmir to tour various parts of the country under 'Operation Sadbhavana' (goodwill), children from outside are now invited here to "join the disconnect and allay fears about the state".
And judging from the experience of 20 students (ten girls and ten boys) from Motilal Nehru School of Sports, Sonipat, in Haryana, invited by the army to visit parts of Jammu region, including remote mountainous areas where militancy is on the wane, the experiment has been a success.
An army spokesman here said: "It is a known fact that there exists a disconnect between children of Jammu and Kashmir, especially those living in rural and remote mountainous areas, and rest of the country. This visit is aimed to plug the disconnect from both the sides to know how children live in this part of the country."
The tour is also aimed at exchange of ideas and activities between the two. "The students from sports school in Sonipat can motivate children they meet here to take up sporting activities in big way," said the spokesman.
The guest students visited many remote and mountainous areas of Jammu region, including Army Goodwill School at Arnora in Doda district, about 180 km northeast of Jammu.
Erstwhile Doda district, now split into Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar district, was heavily infested with militancy in the 1990s and earlier part of past decade.
The students also visited the railway tunnel site at Khari on the under-construction Jammu-Srinagar railway line.
According to the spokesman, children from other parts of the country have "horrific picture of the state in their minds".
"This visit has contributed in allaying fears from the minds of visiting group of students," he said.
The students reached Jammu July 28. On Saturday, they reached Nagrota, the headquarters of 16 Corps, where they were sent off back to Sonipat.
The Class 11 students were delighted and thrilled with the visit.
"It was wonderful being in Jammu and Kashmir. We did not expect such peaceful and calm environment amidst the beauty of the place. After reading newspapers and watching television, we were scared and thought there would be firing and encounters with militants around. But it is so nice and peaceful all over," said Anushtha, a student in the group.
For Anakshit Dahia too it was a very good experience "meeting people of such remote and mountainous areas. There is no terrorism as I had expected. People are nice and it is peaceful."
Varinder Ahlawat is surprised to see normal life here. "It is so nice to see everything happening normally - people going to offices, children going to schools and everything happening normally. I enjoyed every moment of my trip here. I had thought it would be terrorists' violence all around."
"This is just the beginning. We have lined up trips of students from other parts of the country soon," said the army spokesman.
--Indo-Asian News Service