More than 900 athletes from 20 states are in Gulmarg for first Khelo India Winter Games. This despite the fact that the world-over major sports and cultural events are being deferred or cancelled in view of the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak which has so far spread to 60 countries and killed more than 3000 people. The players are taking part in 30 events, including snowboarding, skiing, cross-country games and a snow show at the venue located at an altitude of 8,694 feet.
Government has gone ahead with the games in defiance of the health advisory, public criticism and common sense. Even a very real prospect of the games increasing the vulnerability of the Valley to Coronavirus hasn’t dissuaded the government from holding the event. Ironically, hours before the games went ahead, the same government ordered the closure of the primary schools in parts of J&K as the two positive cases were reported from Jammu and one person who had returned from Iran has died from the disease.
But no such precaution was adopted in case of winter games. Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju flew to Gulmarg to inaugurate the event. In his address he termed the event historic not only for J&K but the whole country. He said the games were a beginning of mega sports events in Gulmarg to be held in near future.
People in Kashmir and outside have accused the government of holding these games to send out an image of normalcy in Kashmir to rest of India and the outside world. Be that as it may, flaunting normalcy in the Valley is not such a bad thing and government needs it to shore up its reputation around the world. More so, after a protracted security lockdown and communication blackout following revocation of Article 370 in August last. But in the process it cannot hold an event that poses a grave health risk to the people of the state including the participants themselves
And this has generated anger in Kashmir. With the internet and social media being restored, people are expressing their objections online. They are highlighting the fact that while New Delhi is cancelling Holi celebration gatherings and outside the state many IT and the other companies are asking their employees to work from home, J&K Government is holding a major sports event. Many of such objections are being shared online now that Kashmir is back on social media. Now since government has decided to go ahead with the games and they can’t be stopped midway, it should take every precaution that event doesn’t become a carrier for the spread of Coronavirus in Kashmir.
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