A Call for the Social Change

By: Towfeeq Wani

A view of old Baramulla Town -- Photo: Sajad Hussain
A view of old Baramulla Town (Representational Photo by Sajad Hussain)

A certain twenty-three year old boy, just out of an engineering college, wearing blue jeans and a stripped knee-length kurta, donning a white skullcap, enters our compound and rings the doorbell as I watch him from the second storey of our house. In a few seconds, my mother appears at the front door. He greets her and gives her a magazine. My mother insists him to come inside for a cup of tea, which he refuses while tracing his steps backwards. He shuts the iron-gate behind him and enters another house of our neighbourhood. For me, this is not something new. For years now, every month, someone or the other delivers us that magazine.

‘Tazkeer’ is the official monthly document of Idarah Falahudarein which is circulated throughout the Varmul town to all its subscribers by the youth associated with the organisation. “It is the best way to penetrate into the minds of the people of this town and revive a sense of belonging in the society and call for a much needed social change,” says Imtiaz A. Qadir, a research scholar in Kashmir University and also the editor of this magazine published in Urdu language. Mr. Imtiaz is one of the many youth who voluntarily run this social organisation.

Every Sunday, in the morning at around eight, a group of youth belonging to this organisation, (many times some old people too) gather at a local mosque to have a discussion on the topics as declared on the earlier Sunday. “It is for the capacity building of our members. However, anyone willing to join is always welcome. We strongly believe that our youth must be socially and politically aware in order to further the message of social change and steer the society towards a better path,” explains Irfan Bahadur, another member of the organisation. The capacity building programme starts with a discussion on some specific verses of the holy Quran, moves onto other contemporary political, economic and social issues of importance and ends with the agenda setting for the next meeting. “Apart from Sundays, we organise special lectures on teachings of the Quran everyday at different mosques of the town. Also, we invite guests from different parts of the valley to deliver exclusive lectures on different issues twice every month, and we also persuade some eminent scholars outside valley to speak at our annual conferences,” adds Mr. Bahadur.

About fifteen years earlier, in nineteen ninety nine, it was during one such meeting between some like-minded youth that they decided to form a small group for their collective training. “The basic idea, at that time, was to have a platform where we could get together and teach each other. However, over time, it evolved the way we had never thought,” recounts Suhail Kar, one of its earliest members. “People trickled in and within years Falahudarein was a household name in the town. It is only because of the trust of the people that we have been able to further our cause,” he adds.

Today, the organisation has more than a hundred registered members, eleven people in the managing body who are elected by the members every year; and the president and a secretary, in turn, elected by the managing body. The regular elections make sure that the organisation is not turned into someone’s personal property.

The organisation primarily functions like a microcosm of a welfare state. Different departments have been formed to carry out their specific functions. The most important among whom, right now, are the ones dealing with the capacity building of the youth, and the ones dealing with the finances. The latter section has been named as ‘Al-Mawineen’.

In 2003, these boys, four years after they had formed the group, decided to collect some money among themselves and the ones they knew in order to help some poor and needy people. This was more difficult to be done than to be said, considering all the suspicions it was likely to raise. “The most important thing we decided was not to get any kind of financial assistance from anyone except individuals. The basic idea behind it was to remain away from all kinds of suspicious funding, and to create a habit of giving charity among our own people, which after all these years, I can say quite evidently, was a brilliant step,” says Mr. Kar. That year, they were able to collect a modest sum of 38,000 rupees. “People gave us money, but at the same time requested to remain anonymous in the fear of being persecuted, if, as they presumed, the money was spent on any anti-state activity. Such was the trust deficit at that time.”

All these years later, the annual budget of the organisation has reached Rs 1,08,00,000 from an initial budget of Rs 38,000, which is huge, considering the fact that the organisation collects most of the money only in the Varmul town, and accordingly spends it within the boundaries of the town. This money is mostly distributed among the poor and needy section of the society. However, more importance is given to provide income generating sources to the people than spoon-feeding them with a monthly allowance. “We have been able to collect such a huge amount because over years, people have developed a trust in us. All our records are open and an audit is conducted every year, the details of which are made public. Today we don’t accept money from anyone who doesn’t wish to be named. This also is an example of how much the people of a small town are able to give once charity becomes a habit,” points out Zubair Aziz, the Secretary of the organisation.

Some years earlier, seeing the increasing level of drug addiction among the youth of the town, the organisation started a major drug de-addiction campaign, in which help centres were formed for those willing to come forward and change. However, sometimes force was also used to dismantle any structured drug unit in the town. Apart from that, the organisation also organises a blood donation camp twice every year in the District Hospital Baramulla, and has organised many medical camps in the past. However, the most important youth oriented initiative is the organisation’s career counselling cell for the students. The cell organises many events every year in schools and colleges of the town.

When asked what the driving force behind these social activities is, Kar replied, “We see Christian Missionaries come from far-off lands to help the people with education and healthcare, something that we should have been doing all this time. It is the duty of every single one of us to transform the structures of our society and in order to do so we must be socially aware first.” From what all its members say, the constitution of the organisation lays equal importance on the awareness of the youth and the work they do on the ground.

In these times of chaos and corruption, these youth are trying to keep a ray of hope alive and burning, even if they have started from a small town and have not expanded their work to any other place. “Today’s world has become highly intolerant. We teach our youth to be tolerant to every section of the community. While busy fighting on petty and meaningless issues, we have forgotten our larger duties towards the society. Falahudarein is one such attempt to revive that sense of the larger good,” adds Zahid Fayaz.

It is quite clear that the strength of the society lies in its people ready to channel their energies for the betterment of the whole community. One such example is that of the Falahudarein.

(Towfeeq Wani is a student of English Literature in Jamia Millia Islamia. He can be reached at [email protected])

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