Srinagar: Each time the news channels flashed showed plumes of smoke billowing out of the building of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) because of the encounter between the security forces and the militants, Mohammad Ismail Parray became a worried man.
Parray, the director of EDI, fought to hide his anxiety as security forces pounded 84-mm rockets at the seven storied building in Sempora locality near the saffron town of Pampore. He sighed after every blast; his face drowned in sadness.
For three days, Parray, 60, remained glued to the television screen inside his home in Humhama locality of Srinagar. News channels beamed live images of forces firing at the building and he somehow managed to keep calm till the gunfight ended.
“It is painful and beyond explanation,” Parray told Firstpost, “I have an emotional attachment with everything in this institution. It is tragic that this has turned into a battleground for the second time in a year,” he said.
When he took over as the director of EDI in February 2004, the institute was functioning from a single room in Institute of Management, Public Administration & Rural Development, Srinagar.
Today the campus is spread on 3.5-acre prime land housing three multi-storied buildings; one of them was destroyed in an earlier gunfight in February.
On Wednesday afternoon, the 57-hour long operation against two militants who had taken over EDI building came to end without any casualties on forces’ side. Two dead bodies of militants were recovered from the debris of the hostel building.
Major General Ashok Narula, who heads counter-insurgency Victor force, said two militants were hiding in the building and both were killed. Narula said such operations are “detailed and time-consuming”.
“There were 60 rooms with attached bathrooms which make it to 120 rooms. Things are not that simple. It takes time,” he said.
Security forces were reluctant to launch a close quarter fight to prevent casualties and avoid a repeat of February encounter in which the Army lost two captains and a soldier of elite Para-commando unit when they tried to storm the building.
A soldier and a cop received minor injuries during the first few hours of the latest gunfight. Forces used flood lights for night patrolling and choppers and drones were deployed to monitor the location of the suspected militants.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir), Javed Mujtaba Gillani said the plan of the militants was to inflict casualties on forces when they come for the operation. “They had chosen the building where they could stay for long and draw attention,” he said.
But for the director of the institute, it is not the infrastructural loss (of around Rs 16 crore) but the time, he says, that will be lost in restarting the operations to train young prospective entrepreneurs in the state.
“Any person who wants to establish any enterprise in any sector, we provide training to them. We are sector neutral,” Parray said.
“These sixty rooms were utilized for trainees who had no place to stay in Srinagar. I am worried about them. They have no place to stay now,” he said.
Established in March 1997, the Jammu and Kashmir government mandated the EDI with developing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture in the state. It started its activities only in February 2004 with Parray as its founding director.
The success of the EDI has been its generation-next workforce, most of whom are either in their early thirties or less. The institute is seen as the new engine for change given the successes stories it has churned out in a short span of time.
“JKEDI has become a one spot solution for aspiring entrepreneurs. The process starts from counseling and the institute remains with the beneficiary throughout his venture,” said Amandeep Singh, a resident of Srinagar and one of the JKEDI’s beneficiary.
“The mindset is changing. Youngsters are shunning conventional jobs and pursuing out of box ideas with the help of JKEDI. Last time we started operations in one week despite our main office building being completely destroyed. It looks like a difficult task today,” said an official of the EDI.
For the director of the EDI, the most important task now, he said, is to get back to work as soon as possible. “We will try to get back to work as soon as possible. This is the reality of life in Kashmir. We have to live with it and move on,” he said.