They have dreams in their eyes -- dreams of joining army to fight militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, which has claimed lives of their near and dear ones.
Forty-two children, including 10 girls, in the age group of six to 13 years, can now realise their dreams with the help of Uniform Force, Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army, which has been running Ankur, a hostel especially for militancy victims, under Operation Sadbhawana at Reasi town in Udhampur since January this year.
These children hail from most militancy-infested areas of Gul, Mahore, Dharmani and Buddhal tehsils in Udhampur and Rajouri districts of the state.
Ankur has four halls namely Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Tagore for the children and all the children have been provided separate beds. All facilities, including recreation and entertainment, have been provided by Army, which has been cutting its own expenditures to meet the expenses of Ankur.
Talking to UNI, Uniform Force' Public Relations Officer (PRO) Colonel Keshaw Kumar Jha said Army decided to provide accommodation for these children in Ankur as they were not getting proper education due to financial crisis.
"Our motto is to provide better life to the next generation of the militancy-affected people of Jammu and Kashmir therefore we are focusing towards better education, learning and living atmosphere for these children," said Col Jha.
Shahzadi, a 13-year-old girl studying in seventh standard in Government Girls School, Bagga, still can not forget the scene when her father Abdul Gani Lohar was shot dead by militants in front of her at her Mahore house in August last year.
"I want to be an army officer and serve the country. I want to fight against terrorism and eliminate terrorists so that other children do not lose their parents like me," she said with tears in her eyes.
Sisters Shehnaz Akhtar (10) and Kalsooma Akhtar (7) from Salbal village in Gul tehsil are studying in Government Girls School, Bagga while Bisharat Ahmed Akhtar is studying in Primary School, Indh. Their parents were brutally murdered by militants in 2004.
"Hum aur kisi bachche ko anath nahi hone denge. Isliye dahshatgardon ko khatam karna zaruri hai. (We don't want other children to get orphaned. Therefore, elimination of militants is essential)," said Shehnaz Akhtar.
Thirteen-year-old Nasheema Bano studying in ninth standard in Government Girls School, Bagga lost her father when she was of only two days in 1993. She wants to be a teacher and serve the society.
"We are providing them good living atmosphere so that they could realise their careers of their dreams. All the wards have been admitted in well-reputed schools, including Convent schools," Ankur's warden, Zeenat Bhatt, said.
Getting emotional, she said, "I look after all the children as my own and many children wanted to call me their mother. The children, when they were brought by Army in January, felt like orphans and their behaviour was also very strange but now their class teachers also accept that they have totally changed in five months. Now they are well-mannered and disciplined in classroom."
Col. Jha said, "The duty of the Army is to develop infrastructure. But here we have been running Ankur because the welfare department of Jammu and Kashmir has expressed its inability to run the hostel."
"We are looking for a reputed NGO which could run the hostel smoothly and some NGOs have approached us also but we will take any decision after full scrutinizing," he added.