When we think of Kargil, I am sure we only recall of the war that cost us many brave soldiers, who died defending the country from the hands of enemies and infiltrators.
Two decades later, the place continues to exude a certain sense of fear and brings to mind the images of war and destruction, which in result, has had a drastic effect on the lives of people living in the region.
To change this very misconception about Kargil and its unfortunate association with war and destruction, a group of youngsters from the city have been passionately working towards raising awareness, and spread the message that there is a lot more to it than what people presume.
We For Kargil (WFK) is a non-profit organisation spearheaded by 25-year-old Najum Ul Huda and his friends, who want Kargil to be known as a place with a rich cultural heritage and not just a former war zone.
Located right in the heart of the former war-torn city, WFK was conceived as an organisation which would work for the betterment of the local community and also bring greater visibility to the city.
All of the members and volunteers who have worked and have been working with WFK are students, including Najum, who put in their own money to make WFK a reality.
“Before the idea of WFK took form in my head, I’d volunteered with the Charkha Development Communication Network, a non-profit organisation that focuses on improved social and economic inclusion of rural marginalised communities across India, on many occasions during my college days. This led me to think why don’t we as residents from Kargil do something for the people and in the process, help change the ‘war zone’ tag that has inevitably become synonymous with the identity of Kargil,” says Najum to The Better India.
From healthcare and education to tourism and environmental sectors, WFK has been taking small strides towards the welfare and development of the residents of Kargil, who in turn have been incredibly supportive of the organisation, shares Najum.
One of the initiatives that they had organised was to provide alternative employment for the women during the winter through the sale of local and authentic woollen products.
“Because it is peak winter and the women had a lot of time in their hands, this proved to be a good investment of time and skills for them that would earn them some income. Our role here was to help them get training and later connecting them with concerned individuals who would help market and sell their products,” he explains.
Another noteworthy step taken by the organisation was to donate some computers to a local school, funds for which were completely put together by the members and volunteers of WFK.
However, one of their primary concerns continue to centre on women and quality education for school children and they aim to work towards the same.
Najum shares that they have also been working hard towards highlighting the rich heritage of Kargil along with the preservation and promotion of its traditions and languages that are relatively unknown to the rest of the country.
To realise this, in 2014 WFK collaborated with the Ministry of Tourism and the Handloom/Handicraft departments of the district and flagged off ‘Visit Kargil to promote Kargil,’ an initiative aimed to promote the tourism in Kargil.
“So far, Kargil has always been a transit point for travellers, who never stay in the city for fear of their safety. This is one misconception we really want to break as people continue to think that nothing is left in Kargil post-war. Until people come to Kargil, they would never know how things have changed and that it is quite safe to stay as well. What we do here is when anyone reaches out to us, we take them to the places worth visiting in Kargil, and there are quite a few and don’t charge anyone for this,” adds Najum.
Several people have reached out to Najum to volunteer for WFK from across the country but back out at the last moment after apprehensions over their safety.
However, a recent call from a travel consultant from Lonely Planet has proven that their work towards promoting Kargil is definitely scaling up.
At present, WFK comprises of four core members including Najum and a couple of volunteers who dedicate their time to Kargil during vacations.
The members of the organisation continue to shell out money from their own pockets and don’t take donations or contributions from others. “We would love to have more volunteers though, whose involvement would further help in raising visibility to Kargil amidst their circles and pass on further,” concludes Najum.
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You can check the initiatives of We For Kargil on Facebook here. You can also reach out to Najum at 8588047464.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)