Kashmiri woman footballer in viral protest photo meets Rajnath Singh

A 23-year old student of arts, whose picture of hurling stones at security forces in Srinagar had become viral earlier this year, was among a group of women football players that met with home minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Afshan Ashiq, said that the team, which she captains, expressed their desire to keep sports above the politics that has troubled the Valley in the past.

“We were asked why do some youth in the Valley choose to become militants. I responded by saying that we were sportspersons and would prefer talking about sports,” Afshan said adding that the meeting was a positive development for Valley youth who are interested or seek a career in sports.

Afshan was part of a 25-member delegation, including other sport officials, which met Rajnath at the North Block. Soon after the meeting, the home minister called up J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and conveyed to her that concerns of the young players be promptly taken up for redressal, MHA said in a statement.

Of the 22 women that met with the senior minister on Tuesday, 11 were from J&K, five from Kashmir Valley, four from Jammu region and two from Ladakh.The team, called J&K CM’s XI ,comprises 11 girls from other parts of the country including six from Haryana, three from Odisha, and one each from Bihar and Jharkhand.

“Met the young and energetic girls of J&K’s first ever women football team. They are highly motivated and driven when it comes to football. Playing the role of new age “Gender Benders”, these girls are setting an example for others to follow. I wish them success and a great future,” said Rajnath Singh in a tweet.

“The day of the incident was something that changed my life forever. Me and my teammates were on our way to meet state sport authorities regarding new equipment when we were stopped and roughed by cops. My teammates defended themselves. I being the captain of the team had to defend them and that exactly what I did. However for the media I was a stone pelter, that I was a footballer did not even matter to them,” Afshan said. When asked what she plans to do in the future, Afshan said, “I want to play at international level. I have come this way without much support and I will continue my journey henceforth even if no one supports me.”

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