From Kashmir to Tokyo

Where there is a will there is a way. This maxim holds true for Arhan Bagati, a Kashmir Pandit youth, who became India’s first and the world’s youngest Deputy Chef de Mission of the Indian Contingent for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Bagati, who is also founder of Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute, shares his journey with Greater Kashmir Executive Editor Arif Shafi Wani
Arhan is the founder of KYARI - Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute,  Awareness & Impact Ambassador of the Paralympic Committee of India. And Youth Ambassador of Pixstory Application.
Arhan is the founder of KYARI - Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute, Awareness & Impact Ambassador of the Paralympic Committee of India. And Youth Ambassador of Pixstory Application.Special arrangement

Who is Arhan Bagati?

I am a Kashmiri Pandit living in Srinagar for over a year now.  I was born and brought up in Delhi but have shifted back to my roots in Kashmir.

I did my schooling from The Shri Ram School in Delhi-NCR.  I attended Pomona College in Los Angeles (one of the world’s top liberal arts institutions) for my Bachelor of Arts in Politics (Specialisation in Comparative Politics) and Asian Studies (Concentration on India) and did my Thesis on Article 370. I got selected for a 6-month study abroad program at Cambridge University in England, where I studied Political Theory, Law, Modern Art, Creative Writing, and more.
I am India’s first and the world’s youngest Deputy Chef de Mission of the Indian Contingent for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

I am the founder of KYARI - Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute,  Awareness & Impact Ambassador of the Paralympic Committee of India. And Youth Ambassador of Pixstory Application

I have written on a host of different topics for multiple national news platforms such as The Quint and First Post. I was recently made the Vice President of the Organising Committee of the 61st National Open Athletics Championship hosted by the Karnataka Athletics Association.

Can you trace your journey to become India’s First and youngest Deputy Chef De Mission for Tokyo Paralympics in 2020?

In 2014, I attended the ‘Sports for Development’ run in Delhi which aimed at creating awareness about the Paralympic Movement in India and had the attendance of Milkha Singh - my idol at the time, as I was a national level track athlete myself, in school. That made me aware of the existence of the Paralympic Movement and made me want to strive to create awareness amongst my generation and our general populace, as I found it unfair that our Paralympic athletes were not given their due credit.

I started working with the Paralympic Committee of India, after which they appointed me as their Awareness and Impact Ambassador. I then created an application InRio, after giving presentations to and getting sponsorship by top companies in India, such as - Boeing India, Nike India, Audi India, Educomp Solutions, etc. Through this application, I then also sponsored two athletes Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati, who went on to win the Gold Medal and Bronze Medal in High Jump, respectively, for India at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016.

I also created InRio’s successor IndTokyo for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. This constant work for the Paralympic Movement since 2014 is why I was chosen to be the Deputy Chef de Mission of the Indian Contingent.

In 2015, you developed the ‘In Rio’ app, which was instrumental in helping para-athletes during the 2016 Rio Games with online access to various queries including preparation, diet, fitness. Are you planning to develop more such apps.

Yes, I will try to create such applications every Paralympic Games - at least up until it becomes redundant, since technology is evolving at an extremely fast pace with ever-increasing accessibility especially at Paralympic Villages as I witnessed first-hand at the Tokyo Paralympic Games Village, with autonomous vehicles and more). 

What is the objective behind setting up ‘KYARI’ – Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute. Has KYARI been able to perform its objectives to conduct Applied Research on a broad spectrum of topics that impact civic and social issues in Jammu and Kashmir?

The objective behind KYARI is to conduct effective on-ground research over a host of different developmental issues within Jammu & Kashmir. KYARI also aims to promote Kashmir in a host of different spheres, so that the region is highlighted and promoted for all its positive reasons.

KYARI is a private research organisation headquartered in Srinagar, India. KYARI is powered by the belief that academic research paves the way for debates, discussions and ultimately, decision-making in matters of public policy. Our focus is to conduct Applied Research on a broad spectrum of topics that impact civic and social issues in J&K. We hope to identify developmental issues in the region and subsequently provide effective, efficient, and economical solutions for the same.

Based on our study and research, we aim to develop policy papers on various issues like Education, Sanitation, Electricity, Tourism, Conservation, Economic Empowerment of Women and others affecting the J&K region and more. Our mission is to focus on the developmental issues hindering the economic and social growth of the Union Territory. We will conduct deep dives into district-wise issues, creating papers that we aim to publish in internationally acclaimed journals, while simultaneously striving to achieve tangible change in society.

KYARI will be a trusted grassroots level partner in Kashmir, offering credible, agile and responsive research solutions to institutions, governments, and civic bodies.

Being just over a year old, KYARI has conducted extensive research on three different topics: Rural Tourism and Waste Management, Climate Change and Horticulture/Agriculture, Tribal Communities (Bakerwals) and their Lifestyle. 

You are a huge fan of Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh. Has he inspired you to work for the welfare of sportsmen?

Yes, definitely. He was the reason why I attended the aforementioned Sports for Development run and is thus how I got exposed to the Paralympic Movement in the first place. 

Recently you organised the historic first literature festival in Srinagar. How challenging was the job to gather noted authors and dignitaries and organise such a prestigious event in the heart of Srinagar?

It was a challenging experience overall, particularly logistically. However, it was a challenge that one wants to accept and overcome as that feeling of successful execution is highly sought after. We did face a hurdle to overcome the media perception about Kashmir and people’s safety, however, by the end of it everyone did show up and had only positive feedback to give about the region. SKICC was very helpful in the entire process and for smooth execution.

The Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor was also very supportive and positive about this whole program. 

You love the environment and want to work for solid waste management in J&K. What’s the progress on the initiative?

We conducted an extensive research project on Rural Tourism and Waste Management in Aharbal, Kulgam - which is available on our website www.kyari.org. I sought time from the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor to apprise him of our research project, which he efficiently marked to the Rural Development Department.

We are hoping to focus on implementation soon, as we grow and expand over time. As of now, KYARI’s main aim is to produce as many extensive research papers as possible, as well as promote Kashmir in a positive light. 

What are your other initiatives in J&K?

We have also conducted extensive research on two other topics, Climate Change & Tribal Communities. Additionally, we undertook this Kumaon Literary Festival Kashmir edition. We have also partnered with one of India’s leading film production houses and brought them to shoot in Kashmir - they were earlier planning on shooting at another location. Last year we also partnered with India Foundation to undertake the 10th Young Thinkers meet in Kashmir.

What is your message for the people of J&K especially youth who are educated but unemployed?

J&K offers a trove of potential to utilise the skills that one has learned. It’s just a matter of implementing and executing them. One needs to find their purpose and follow through. It’s a collective effort that needs to be made and is a gradual process requiring patience as well. However, once the first, hard step is made, it will probably only get easier.

We at KYARI are also looking for individuals interested in conducting developmental research. If anybody is interested, they can reach out to us at: career@kyari.org.

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