How this Kashmiri stone-pelter went on to meet Rajnath Singh and score goal for India?

Right after the death of Burhan Wani in 2016, Kashmir underwent a period of great turmoil. From occasional spur of disturbances to weeks of uninterrupted violence, the valley saw everything for almost a year. What caught everyone’s attention was the gigantic rise in the number of stone-pelters in the state. Thanks to terror-funding by the militant groups, even the commoners took up stones against the establishment and resisted their decorum in every little way possible.

One among the thousands of stone-pelters which caught national attention was the image of an angry girl hurling stones at the J&K police. Her name is Afshan Ashiq. However, rather than tagging her as just another footballer, we want to introduce her as an avid footballer, who has introduced numerous Kashmiri girls to this male-oriented sports in the valley.

This photograph you see got her noticed as the “Kashmiri footballer forced to vent her ire by pelting stones. Soon the image went viral on social media, and her transformation was noticed by none other than the chief minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti. Thereafter, the CM met the 23-year-old footballer and promised to promote the women’s football team of the state as well.

The 23-year-old is the goalkeeper-captain of the state football team and has been getting a lot of exposure on a national level ever since. She also plays for a Mumbai club and has also inspired a Bollywood biopic on her life.

On December 5, 2017, the Jammu and Kashmir women’s football team captain met the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh as a part of a 25-member delegation, including other sport officials, at the Northern Block. Afshan told TOI that she sought the home minister’s intervention to start a Sports Authority of India (SAI) Institute in Kashmir to nourish and train young girls to play football. Speaking more on the lines, the student of Arts said:

I was impressed by how patiently a Union minister heard the issues raised by us. We sought better sports infrastructure in J&K. The home minister called up J&K CM in front of us and told her to meet us when we get back to Srinagar.

She further said that her team was getting ample support from Mehbooba Mufti, who has also instructed the sports secretary to take care of all their requirements to better their performances.

Talking further to TOI, she said:

While I have joined a Mumbai football club to pursue my dream to be a national-level player, it is my honor to also captain the J&K women’s football team.

What surprises many is the fact that the team reflects the regional diversity of Kashmir in the best possible way. While the manager is a Ladakhi, the coach is a Sikh. The team members too hail from all three regions of the state.

When asked if she regrets pelting stone at the police officers, she declined it completely, saying that her anger was triggered by the abusive language used by a J&K cop as well as the alleged “slapping” of a team member she was escorting to the football ground at the time. She said:

I don’t regret anything. I would not have picked up a stone had it not been for the misbehavior of the police.

But now I have a reputation and image to maintain. I want to focus on football and make my state and nation proud.

By: Shah on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017