TARIQ A. RATHER
The conflict situation in late 80’s in Jammu & Kashmir besides various ins and outs gave birth to several voluntary initiatives in the form of NGOs, social and welfare organisations. History is witness to the fact that a large number of such organisations disappeared from the scene while very few such organisations survived, sustained their activities and have been contributing to improve the living conditions of deserving while working for the upliftment of the socio economic development of the underprivileged sections of the people.
The organisations like J&K Yateem Trust, Sakhawat Centre, HELP Foundation, J&K Yateem Khana, Help Poor Voluntary Trust, Voluntary Medicare Society, ATHROUT, Srinagar, and several others in South & North Kashmir, are contributing in this field in line with their resources and best possible capacity. Of late, Chinar International Srinagar has been in news for its humanitarian work in Kashmir for the past couple of years.
One among these prestigious voluntary organisations namely J&K Yateem Foundation (JKYF) with its Central Office at BAITUL HILAL Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar having district level units in Jammu & Kashmir including at mountainous areas in Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah & Thathri, looks to be working with some difference in approach and understanding. JKYF has been utilising different tools of communication to reach out to the people with the message for their active participation in social service activities for the welfare and rehabilitation of thousands of orphans, widows and destitute irrespective of caste, creed, region or religion. It seems JKYF is working consciously to bring a perceptible change for good.
Producing films, publishing yearly magazine “Waqt Ki Pukar” now titled “EHSAAS”, information folders, posters and newspaper advertisements in bilingual format (English & Urdu) with novel ideas and content, have remained the ways and means to put across its message for generating response for the great humanitarian cause. The Yearly Wall Calendar Series since 2004 is a big tool of communication aimed at reaching out to the people across the board.
Programme Executive Press & PR Division Javaid Jawad, who himself is postgraduate in Mass Communication & Journalism from Kashmir University, says JKYF General Budget includes separate allocation for Press & Public Relations Division, which speaks of JKYF’s understanding of the importance of mass media and communication in today’s world of science, technology and media.
Though few other voluntary organisations have come up with wall calendar, the JKYF’s Year 2015 calendar with focus on social service related commandments in Holy Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), shows its understanding of appropriate usage of messaging and content. The content analysis of various messages covering plight of orphans, widows and destitute makes one understand that JKYF talks about inclusive support for their rehabilitation. This year MEEQAT-E-SALAAH (12 month timing chart of five times Namaz including Sehri & Iftaar timings) is the latest addition.
The JKYF multi colour 18’’ X 23’’ six leaf double sided calendar, designed by one of the upcoming young web developer and graphic designers Qaisar Sidique, has dedicated its first three leaves to the plight of flood affected victims while calling for their sustained relief and possible respectful rehabilitation measures. The calendar highlights the distressed condition and the testing times being faced by the sufferers with a call to take measures for alleviating their pain. There is consistent focus calling upon people in general and philanthropists in particular to come forward with all types of relief material in accordance with individual capacity. Even the winter related material like blanket, quilt, mattress, pillow, pheran, muffler, kangri with charcoal, hot water bottle, sweater, jacket, cap, socks, shoes, medicine, tooth brush & paste, bath soap, washing powder, detergent soap and nail cutter sought in charity is mentioned in one of the messages. This speaks about JKYF’s understanding in showcasing the unimaginable difficulties flood affected in particular and common poor people who mostly suffer due to non availability of adequate resources to cope up with harsh Kashmir winters. Another calendar leaf focuses on the concern wherein floods snatched books, stationery and other related material of the students. There is a call to make the flood affected students accessible to education by providing them books, note books, stationery, lunch box, school uniform and school bag.
The calendar highlights issues of around 2.14 lakh orphan boys & girls (as per Save The Children survey), over 30 thousand orphan & poor unmarried girls besides around 32 thousand widow headed families. In addition, providing succour and rehabilitating the destitute who don’t resort to street begging, has also been focussed in the message packaging.
While common sense says that there should have been specific Ramadhan related message in Ramadhan Calendar Leaf but the deliberate focus on Stray and Door to Door money/resource collection seems to be a unique departure from traditional practice. By highlighting decree and statement of renowned Islamic scholars Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi and Faheem Mohammad Ramzan categorically rejecting practice of stray and door to collection in the name of relief and rehabilitation of orphans, widows and other destitute, JKYF’s public position on this issue seems to be more pragmatic, bold, progressive and beneficial in the public interest. This, I think, will surely bring awareness among common innocent philanthropists about the absurdity of this practice which has brought disrepute to the institution of running of social welfare institutions by muslims in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere. JKYF’s sustained campaign against practice of stray and door to door collection, is praiseworthy and an act of courage which will go a long way in exterminating the undesirable activity for generating resources in the name of orphans and other needy people through stray collection or some deceptive means.
The Calendar also throws light on the cardinal message of Islam wherein Islam envisages to create a society with equal rights for one & all. The focus is to encourage orphans, widows & destitute without any prejudice to have access to such equal opportunities. Similarly, charity has been focused as a genuine, effective and result-oriented tool to create a safe and secure human society in which crimes and sins shall cease to happen when poverty will be tackled in a comprehensive manner. The Calendar very well portrays humanitarian work as the hallmark of Islam.
Another unique feature of Calendar 2015 is that the issue of mental, psychological and emotional trauma being experienced by a large number of old aged parents mostly dependents within their own homes they build and nurture, has also been highlighted which of late has become one of the burning issues in our family structures. Here, again the calendar calls for reverence, obedience, love, care and affection to be showered upon invaluable gift of the Almighty Allah (SWT) in the shape of parents thereby cautioning about preservation of moral value system.
The plight of poor and needy patients suffering from various ailments and living in miserable conditions, has also been highlighted in the Calendar pages. The Calendar talks about sufferings of poor and destitute patients who are inaccessible to affordable healthcare owing to their poverty and financial constraints. There is a call for doctors, para-medical professionals, diagnostic laboratories, pharmaceutical enterprises and general philanthropists to extend their healing hand to the underprivileged patients so that they don’t suffer, die and go unnoticed for want of consultation, diagnostics, treatment and medicines.
The burning issue of marriage of over 30,000 poor and orphan unmarried girls, has also been highlighted in the Calendar. Indirectly, JKYF calls upon married women philanthropists to come forward for sponsoring or facilitating the simple marriages of those girls who cross marriageable age due to poverty and suffer in various ways.
In line with its mandate, J&K Yateem Foundation has substantially focused on the need of dignified, respectful and honourable life for needy and destitute through concrete rehabilitation measures. The Calendar explicitly highlights the need to adopt proactive role by the common people and the literate circles in particular to build public opinion in favour of debating and discussing ways and means for taking care of legitimate right of quality life for the orphans, widow headed families and destitute in general.
Touching issues like facilitation for simple marriage (Nikah) of poor orphan unmarried girls and also safeguarding institution of parental care and faithfulness, speaks about the futurist understanding about the basic issues confronting people at a place which is experiencing fallout of the past around 25 year old conflict. It appears that the vision, understanding and proactive role to serve people in an inclusive manner, has roots in pleasing Almighty Allah (SWT) in line with the teachings of Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Seeking all forms of contribution in terms of financial resources, physical and psychological involvement and intellectual input from cross section of the people, is in itself core strength of the voluntarism in pursuit of honourable rehabilitation besides safe, secure, better and respectful life for the disadvantaged sections of the people.
The focus on question “If Not We? — Then Who?” which has become core symbolic expression of inclusiveness, indicates that J&K Yateem Foundation is not shying away from its great responsibility but encourages, inspires, attracts rather throws open its doors for all those who want to contribute for socio economic upliftment of the people in distress and agony.
Programme Executive, Press & PR, who works as part time volunteer informed that JKYF Wall Calendar-2015 is coming little late and shall soon hit the stands as post September Floods last year put entire management and volunteers of the Foundation on toes to cater to the boarding, lodging, educational and recreational needs of the displaced 50 orphan inmates from BAITUL HILAL Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar affected due to floods. He elaborated that the Foundation has been involved round the clock to secure more and more material and other resources for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people of the State. Volunteer Jawad remarked that J&K September 2014 deluge has added to the burden of the Foundation which is already shouldering the responsibility for facilitating the honourable survival of hundreds of orphans, widow headed families and other destitute sections of people in Jammu & Kashmir State.
Coming back to the usage of mass media, I see a lot of scope for improvement in the JKYF media division to deliver more. For that JKYF needs to open its doors for media professionals irrespective of gender available in the market who with ground understanding of the overall situation, have expertise in print, electronic, outdoor, advertising, social media and other areas of communication. JKYF also needs to reach out to historians, writers, sociologists, psychologists and psycho analysts to provide them access while utilising their research studies and visionary experiences. This could help the organisation to infuse professionalism & work culture besides help in creating think tank for institutionalisation of social service in Jammu & Kashmir. JKYF could become beacon by taking lead while throwing an idea of SERVE (Social Entrepreneurship for Revival of Voluntary Engagement) towards making social service an all inclusive day to day social culture.
Conclusion: Theoretically, it is very easy to pick up loopholes in the working of voluntary organisations though there is a need to put in place credible voluntary social audit mechanism. However, hats off to all those who sincerely and voluntarily spend their time, energy and resources for the upliftment of poor, needy and destitute. The observation is that while doing so they often ignore or pay less attention to their own family matters, which is a great sacrifice and society must acknowledge it. May Almighty Allah (SWT) accept their noble and sincere deeds and repay them in this world and the Hereafter. Aameen
(The author is Indian Information Service Officer presently working as Assistant Director (News), DDK Jammu)