Four Kashmiri youths have set out on a rally to campaign for ‘drug-free India.’ The group hopes to cover the 3806-KM distance in a week

A group of four enthusiastic bikers from Kashmir has set out on a rally from Srinagar to Kanyakumari to campaign for “drug free society” – a first of its kind initiative from the Valley since abrogation of Article 370 provisions on August 5.

The bikers left Srinagar on Friday but had to spend the chilly night under a tent on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway due to blocking of the only all-weather road, linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, by a landslide at Digdole in Ramban district, before getting green signal around 5 am the next day.

“Nobody is sponsoring our trip…We have pooled our resources after getting a cool response from the government to complete the dream ride,” 24-year-old engineering student Muzamil Fayaz Bhat, the leader of the team hailing from Tral township of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, told PTI.

Bhat, along with Adil Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Zubair and Ubaid Javid Malik – all residents of Srinagar, stayed overnight in Jammu to have some rest after going through a nightmare on the highway and left for their second stop at Delhi en route to Kanyakumari on Saturday morning.

The group hopes to cover the 3806-km distance in a week.

“We are professional bikers and nature lovers, and have visited different parts of the valley and Ladakh during the past over three years. We had decided to undertake the long journey last year with a message against substance abuse, which is growing with each passing day and claiming precious lives, but the sudden developments caused the delay,” Bhat said.

The Centre abrogated Article 370 provisions, which guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir, on August 5 last year and bifurcated the erstwhile state into Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, which came into effect on October 31.

“We lost contact with each other due to restrictions and communication blockade. When the restrictions were eased and mobile phones got restored, we came together under the banner of team logo ”Battle on Roads” and approached the authorities for necessary assistance for the first of its kind trip but got a cold shoulder despite a senior officer immediately approving our proposal,” Bhat said, blaming corruption for “misplacing of the file”.

Zubair said they were expecting more bikers to join them in the trip after getting the sponsorship as everyone cannot afford the required expenditure.

“We have seen the riders from different parts of India exploring Kashmir and Ladakh under the full cooperation of their governments. We wish our government too pays attention to encourage local youth to take part in short and long distance bike rallies, which will help them to overcome negativity and think positively,” he said.

The biker said they have made the “small beginnings” and “we are hopeful that more and more youth will join us in future”.

“Our motto for this trip is to attract the attention of the youth to our banners and placards which we are carrying to convey our message (no drugs). Even if one person gets motivated and stays away from the drugs, it will be our success,” he said.

Mir said it is painful to see an increasing number of youth falling prey to the drugs.

“After our successful trip, we will launch a massive campaign in Kashmir and visit all higher secondary schools, colleges and universities to share our experience with the students…If we can stay away from drugs, why cannot everyone else,” he said.

Zubair said the depression among the youth due to various reasons like growing unemployment, the three-decade-long violence and hopeless future is driving them to drugs.

Malik was thankful to the road clearance agencies who worked round-the-clock to clear the highway of the landslide debris.

“When we reached Digdole (on the highway), the road was completely blocked and we had no other option but to stay in the open to wait for the clearance of the road. The icy winds coupled with falling night temperature kept us awake throughout the night even as we had put up a tent,” he said.

He said they were given a passage around 5.30 am after hectic efforts by the men who were on the job.

“It was nothing short of a nightmare and was also a signal for the challenges ahead. We braved this challenge and are hopeful to overcome whatever the situation to fulfill our long cherished dream to work as an inspiration for others,” he said.