Kashmir is not usually present in our imaginations (or on our TV screens for that matter) for reasons other than militancy, bomb blasts, curfews, guerilla attacks, protests, firing on civilians, army crimes, so on and so forth (though occasionally the images of juicy red apples and snowy honey-moon spots makes it through!).
Amidst the chaos and confusion, the women of Kashmir seem to be invisible. Except for the few who flash across our screens mourning for the loss of some dead loved one, Kashmiri women are almost completely absent from the public sphere. And hence the story of one Mehvish Mushtaq is a whiff of fresh air, after all the stench of blood and political games.
The self-titled “Android girl from Kashmir and for Kashmir” was recently highlighted in various media platforms all over the country for being the first Kashmiri to develop an Android application. Her app called “Dial Kashmir” is an attempt to help lessen the huge dearth of information and basic facilities faced by the people of the area. It is an ever-growing collection of contact information for various needs such as health, education etc. with over 500 contacts of government and private departments. Mehvish says that she felt the need for such a tool as she perceived that the people in the State always faced a huge problem when trying to get the contact numbers or addresses of many departments or institutions. One day as she was surfing Facebook, she saw an advertisement for a company that trained people in the development of Android apps. She clicked on the link, took the short course, worked hard on her own for two weeks — and the rest, as they say, is history. Mehvish, says that she hopes this is an example that the bright young men and women of Kashmir can make something of their lives staying in their native land itself, instead of having to move to different parts of the country in search of education and a better life. She herself has done a degree in Computer Science Engineering from Kashmir itself. In her own words: “I want to contribute to my motherland by staying right here. I do not want to move out of Kashmir, either to study or to work.” (1)
The app and the initiative from Mehvish, have received wide applause and support from all over the country. It has a rating of 4.7 and thousands of downloads. Many people have left heart-warming comments and extended their best wishes, with some even calling for such an app to be developed for their State. Mehvish herself has been interviewed, written about and photographed by many media platforms. An impressive feat and inspiring act indeed, from an up-until-few-days-ago invisible Kashmiri girl.
Mehvish is an important symbol in many ways. She is a symbol of hope and inspiration for many Kashmiri youth, especially girls, to inspire them to follow their passions — even amidst armies and militants. She is a symbol to the rest of India that perhaps we need to give more public attention to the issue of Kashmir and the plight of Kashmiris, as who knows how many other ‘Mehvish-es’ exist in that beautiful land. She is a symbol for students of technology to use their knowledge and skills to contribute to society and help solve problems of common men and women, rather than just to earn a paycheck alone. She helps humanize Kashmiri people to the rest of the world, who have for too long looked at the land and the issue as just another war zone and a political stratagem, and the oppressed citizens as but necessary ‘collateral damage’.
Is her feat, one that addresses the basic issue of Kashmir and brings Kashmiris stability and freedom? Well, perhaps not. Is it one which is a source of pride and inspiration to all Kashmiris, Indians and women in general? It sure is! Well done Mehvish!