Union Minister Anurag Thakur on Friday said that the situation has vastly changed in Jammu and Kashmir in the past three years, while places where stone pelting was common, they now have sports flourishing and budding players are also emerging there.

“If you see lights on at night, you will find Kashmiri youths practicing their sports. That’s how much the situation has changed in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said during the inaugural ceremony of 3rd Khelo India Winter Games at Gulmarg.

He said more than 1,500 players from 29 states and Union territories will take part in the 5-day mega event.

Thakur said sports not only was a unifying platform but also reflected the soft power of the country. “Sports is soft power. When a player wins an international medal, it unites the country. Gold medal by Neeraj Chopra ended India’s 121-year wait for athletics gold at the Olympics. This sparked celebrations across the country,” he said.

Thakur said last year was big for Indian sports as athletes from various fields excelled in their respective games at international events. “We had the highest medal tally at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. P V Sindhu won back to back Olympic medals in badminton,” he added.

He said it is a moment of pride that what other states could not do J&K has done. “All districts of J&K have an indoor stadium and playgrounds have come up across the UT,” he said.

Thakur said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants big sports Centres to come up so that sportspersons of the country can excel. “A sports university is coming up in Manipur and a Centre of Excellence in winter sports will soon come up in Gulmarg,” he said.

The minister said the situation has vastly changed in Jammu and Kashmir in the past three years. “Places where stone pelting was common, we now have sports flourishing and seeing budding players,” he said.