Srinagar, Oct. 2 -- Apart from sporting battles, the Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium, has witnessed wars of different kinds. The stadium, which was built in 1983, was shut down in 1989 when insurgency gained ascendancy in Jammu and Kashmir. It was occupied by the CRPF and turned into an interrogation centre. Nasir Hakim, a J&K Badminton Association official, recalls the stadium's pitiable state when the CRPF vacated it. "There was ash everywhere. The windows were broken and it didn't look like a sporting complex."
Things seemed to look up in 2006, when a district-level tournament was organised. "The response left us shocked. We received so many entries, so many people came to watch. Ironically, we didn't want the tournament to get popular, as it was dangerous to be in the limelight those days," says Hakim.
The stadium was shut down again after militants stormed it, killing two CRPF men and burning down a small building which housed the passport office.
But the closure didn't last long. The stands, which were once used by the forces to maintain vigil, still have no takers and the layers of dust are testimony to the fact that the few tournaments held here have gone unnoticed.
Though table tennis and gymnastics tournaments have been held here, Jammu is still the preferred destination for sporting events. Even the badminton team in the nationals is from Jammu, a relatively peaceful area.
Dipakshi, a shuttler from Jammu, says quite a few of the team members were coming to Srinagar for the first time. "As most of the events happen in Jammu, we never had the opportunity to come here."
Of course, it's unusual for girls here to take up sports, and those who do, discontinue because of parental pressure. According to Dipakshi, the culture in Kashmir is different and girls usually don't play badminton. "In state tournaments, the men's draw is of 64 players, while hardly eight girls turn up."
Organisers admit that had Saina Nehwal taken part, more youngsters would have come to watch the nationals. But spectators or lack of them, the organisers are happy that the sport is on a comeback trail.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.