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Kashmiri girls on goodwill trip

Young guests from Kashmir at the headquarters of the army’s Bengal Area on AJC Bose Road on Wednesday.
Pictures by Sanat Kr. Sinha

Humaira Liyaqat had seen Howrah bridge only in the movies. On Wednesday afternoon, she was walking on it.

“It was marvellous. I felt dwarfed while walking down Howrah bridge,” said the 17-year-old from Uri, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district, a few kilometres from the Line of Control.

She is part of a group of 23 girls on a tour organised by the army as part of Operation Sadbhavna. The army takes youths from Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast on tours of various cities in the country to expose them to the lifestyle of the residents.

“This is the first time that we are hosting an all-girl team from Jammu and Kashmir. The objective is to make these young girls see the rest of the country. They can go back and tell their families and friends about their experience,” Major-General Harsha Kakar, chief of staff, headquarter, Bengal Area, said after meeting the young visitors on the lawns of headquarters of the Bengal Area on AJC Bose Road on Wednesday.

The girls, on a four-day tour of Calcutta from Monday, are students of a computer training institute run by officers of the armed forces. The officers run many similar initiatives in Kashmir for people who have suffered because of insurgency.

Before arriving in Calcutta, the girls had visited Delhi and Lucknow.

The girl gang on Tuesday visited several other city landmarks like Science City, Birla Planetarium, Victoria Memorial and Prinsep Ghat.

The highlight for the girls, many of whom have stepped out of their state for the first time, was a visit to New Market on Tuesday evening.

“I have never seen such a big market,” gushed Arshi Alam, a senior member of the team.

The girls shopped and gorged on phuchkas. “Humne suna tha ki Delhi tehzeeb ka shahar hai lekin sahi mayeno main Calcutta ke logon ke paas zyada tehzeeb hai (We had heard that Delhi was a city of polite and well-mannered people but after coming here we realised that it is Calcutta which is actually so),” said Nadiya Enayat, a faculty member, who is accompanying the students on their tour.