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Arhan Bagati: Pioneering change from Kashmir to the world stage

“KYARI is powered by the belief that academic research paves the way for debates, discussions, and ultimately, decision-making in matters of public policy.
06:43 AM Jul 02, 2024 IST | ARIF SHAFI WANI
arhan bagati  pioneering change from kashmir to the world stage

Srinagar, July 1: It has been a long but successful journey for son of the soil, Arhan Bagati, to set milestones at local, national, and international levels in pursuit of making a positive impact on the lives of people, especially the youth of Jammu and Kashmir.


“I love the people of my homeland. I am hopeful that my achievements will send a powerful message that the youth of J&K are not mere participants but leaders in the global conversation on social and political change,” Arhan told Greater Kashmir in an exclusive interview.


Founder of Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute (KYARI), Arhan is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University. He had also received acceptance letters from some of the world's most prestigious institutions, including Columbia and Stanford. However, he chose to pursue his Master's in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. As getting admission to Harvard and Stanford involves a rigorous selection process, Arhan's achievement was a proud moment for J&K.


“I am confident that my education will equip me with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate complex policy challenges and advocate for meaningful change, ultimately making a positive impact on the lives of the people, especially the youth in Kashmir,” he said.


Earlier this year in May, Arhan was appointed an official for the Indian contingent at the ongoing KOBE 2024 World Para Athletics Championship in Japan. He had also been nominated as a Member of the Ceremonial and Medal Ceremony Committees of the World Shooting Para Sports (WSPS) World Cup held in New Delhi. Arhan was the world's youngest and India's first Deputy Chef de Mission of the Indian Paralympic Contingent at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.


Arhan did his schooling at The Shri Ram School in Delhi-NCR. He attended Pomona College in Los Angeles, one of the world’s top liberal arts institutions, for a Bachelor of Arts in Politics (Specialisation in Comparative Politics) and Asian Studies (Concentration on India). He did his thesis on Article 370. He was also selected for a six-month study abroad programme at Cambridge University in England, where he studied Political Theory, Law, Modern Art, Creative Writing, and more.


“I have written on a host of different topics for multiple national news platforms such as The Quint and First Post. I was recently made the Vice President of the Organising Committee of the 61st National Open Athletics Championship hosted by the Karnataka Athletics Association.”


Tracing his journey to become India’s first and youngest Deputy Chef de Mission for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, Arhan attended the ‘Sports for Development’ run in Delhi, which aimed at creating awareness about the Paralympic Movement in India. “I had the attendance of Milkha Singh – my idol at the time, as I was a national level track athlete myself, in school. That made me aware of the existence of the Paralympic Movement and made me want to strive to create awareness amongst my generation and our general populace, as I found it unfair that our Paralympic athletes were not given their due credit,” Arhan said.

Arhan started working with the Paralympic Committee of India, after which he was appointed as their Awareness and Impact Ambassador. “I then created an application InRio, after giving presentations to and getting sponsorship from top companies in India, such as Boeing India, Nike India, Audi India, Educomp Solutions, etc. Through this application, I then also sponsored two athletes, Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati, who went on to win the Gold Medal and Bronze Medal in High Jump, respectively, for India at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016.”

In 2015, he developed the ‘In Rio’ app, which was instrumental in helping para-athletes during the 2016 Rio Games with online access to various queries, including preparation, diet, and fitness. “I will try to create such applications for every Paralympic Games – at least up until it becomes redundant, since technology is evolving at an extremely fast pace with ever-increasing accessibility, especially at Paralympic Villages as I witnessed firsthand at the Tokyo Paralympic Games Village, with autonomous vehicles and more,” he said.

Through his Kashmir’s Yumberzal Applied Research Institute, he has been conducting applied research on a broad spectrum of topics that impact civic and social issues in Jammu and Kashmir. Arhan said that the objective behind KYARI is to conduct effective on-ground research over a host of different developmental issues within Jammu & Kashmir. He said KYARI also aims to promote Kashmir in various spheres so that the region is highlighted and promoted for all its positive reasons.

“KYARI is powered by the belief that academic research paves the way for debates, discussions, and ultimately, decision-making in matters of public policy. Our focus is to conduct applied research on a broad spectrum of topics that impact civic and social issues in J&K,” he said.

“We hope to identify developmental issues in the region and subsequently provide effective, efficient, and economical solutions for the same,” he added. Arhan said that based on his study and research, he aims to develop policy papers on various issues like education, sanitation, electricity, tourism, conservation, economic empowerment of women, and others affecting the J&K region.

“Our mission is to focus on the developmental issues hindering the economic and social growth of the Union Territory. We will conduct deep dives into district-wise issues, creating papers that we aim to publish in internationally acclaimed journals, while simultaneously striving to achieve tangible change in society,” he said.

Under Arhan’s leadership, KYARI has conducted extensive research on rural tourism, waste management, climate change, horticulture/agriculture, tribal communities (Bakerwals) and their lifestyle.

In his message to the youth, Arhan said, “J&K offers a trove of potential to utilise the skills that one has learned. It’s just a matter of implementing and executing them. One needs to find their purpose and follow through. It’s a collective effort that needs to be made and is a gradual process requiring patience as well. However, once the first, hard step is made, it will probably only get easier.