New Delhi, Jul 19: Kashmir has always been a victim of bad publicity, believes renowned artist Rouble Nagi, who is known for her campaign for repairing and beautifying slums and villages across the country.
Nagi, who was born in Jammu, started a programme 'Missal Kashmir', which involves taking colours and sketch books inside 'Madrassas' for encouraging children to channelise their creativity in motivating women to take up self-employment.
The Mumbai-based artist's book titled "The Slum Queen", which captures her journey, was released on Tuesday.
"Sadly, there are rural areas in Kashmir that are in dire need of development.
There are people who need to be empowered so that they can feel hopeful. What has hindered development there, among other things, is that Kashmir has always been a victim of bad publicity. People have always looked away from Kashmir except when it comes to tourism," she writes in the book.
"Of course, the economy has thrived for decades because of tourism but there are other necessities that need to be addressed. The people of Kashmir are extremely hospitable, and the youth look forward to development more than anything else.
"Poverty, political turmoil, social and economic inequalities between groups lead to conflict. It is true that conflicts often have cultural dimensions related to ethnicity or religion, but it is also true that behind these conflicts, invariably, there are underlying economic causes at play," she adds.
Nagi, along with her team, has been travelling to remote and militancy-infested areas like Watlab, Sangrama, Handwara, Langate and the rural belt of Pulwama educating children with arts and the language of paints while advocating women to generate employment for themselves.
"There are people who always take this kind of an opportunity to incite a community to be a part of their selfish agenda. In Kashmir, the youth and women want to be educated and employed.
"They want to make something of their lives and support their families, just like the rest of us. It is unfortunate that the misdoings of a few bring infamy to an entire place," she says.
'Misaal Kashmir' is a village transformation project, where artists work to transform the community by tapping the local creative energy.
The project is a part of the 'Misaal India' initiative launched in 2018. The programme was designed by Nagi and it benefited the less privileged people living in slums and villages across the country.
"In Kashmir, temperatures are near sub-zero during winter. The freezing temperatures made it difficult for us to work at our usual speed. Our hands were cold and numb, despite our best efforts, and we had to keep drinking tea and coffee to keep ourselves warm.
"However, at the same time, we looked at the enthusiasm shown by the locals, their eager and determined faces, as they had begun to feel hopeful seeing us there and hearing our plans. That gave us the motivation we needed to work through the frigid weather," she writes in the book.