Sunil Shetty


I decided to go to Kargil because I had been associated with the army in Border. I kept wondering what is it that makes these people get into the army -- what is it that makes them take that bullet in the chest for Rs 2,300 a month?

I went there and realised that it was only for their motherland that they were doing their duty and for no other reason. For them their country is everything.

I felt like a fool when I went there. What are all our achievements compared to theirs? Fortunately or unfortunately it took a Kargil for us civilians to realise that we are not Hindus, Muslims Sikhs or anything else, just Hindustanis.

For young boys to come out in thousands to join the army in every state makes us realise how things are. The tragedy is that it is not just the army that has been affected there. It is also the people of Kashmir, the people living in Kargil who have been displaced. There are 78,000 people out in the open with 20,000 children. No schools, no blankets, no tents, Rs 200 per month per family.

Already eight weeks have passed without school. If another 12, 14 weeks go by and the rains come, you never know, they may go up into the mountains, carry those guns and get back at you. Something needs to be done about them, they need to be educated, those people who are directly affected by this.

We are trying to do our best for the people. I think a lot of attention needs to be drawn to that. Areas like Drass, Kargil, Kasgar, all are places where there are refugee camps. A lot of attention needs to be given to these people.

We are trying to do something -- send a team of doctors, teachers to work in the villages. This is a cause one must work on. All this is going to demand a lot of money because it's not a one-day thing. It's not as if we give a thousand-rupee note and it ends there. Because this is an ongoing thing. You need to establish them, educate them, set them up all over again. Otherwise, Kashmir is definitely gone.

I know I may sound like a politician but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. You're losing the youth, you'll lose the people of Kashmir. This is the one time we need to show them that they're ours and that we care and they'll be ours for life.

I've had a single day's experience with them but I'll give this in writing: Take care of them today and they'll give you Kashmir on a platter. You'll be God when you go there. I know that. It's sad they're working for the army -- the first shell that came in blew a civilian's house off and nothing is being done about them.

If we can bring about this awareness through the Internet or through the other media -- it'll be a help.

People -- the refugees -- need blankets, they need powder and milk biscuits. The basics -- that's what they're asking for. We're in July now. By September, October, November, it'll get colder and they'll be really suffering.

A lot of money has been collected for the army but now the civilian there has to be looked after. We're trying to set up a committee with PRIDE India so that the money can go there. We're trying for 100 per cent tax exemption and trying to monitor everything ourselves.

If I can make a difference to one person I will. So I'm trying to do things in my own small way because I can trust myself. I guess that even if one donates to the Red Cross etc it will reach the people but it should be specifically sent for the people. This is not something that will get over tomorrow, so that spirit has to be sustained. People have to go there to give those people confidence. Now suddenly Kashmir has been closed, it's sealed -- there's nobody there and nothing is being done about these villages.

I saw blood, broken limbs. I saw soldiers down and out as far as injuries go but their spirit was way up there. They were willing to get up and fight all over again. That spirit was unbelievable. Those 17-year-olds were men. Suddenly I saw a new India. The whole spirit was, 'We're Hindustanis'. People seemed to find direction. Only our political scenario showed that this country was down, but this was a shot in the arm.

Today, let one corrupt man say something against the country and he'll be ripped apart.

I went to a Delhi hospital, a Srinagar hospital and Kargil, where there were makeshift hospitals. I'd tell our civilians, 'help the people of Kashmir and bring them back to their homes. There are young children there who if not supported now will turn against you. Look after them, show them we are with them'.

Actor Sunil Shetty spoke to Lata Khubchandani