Syed Mohd Hussain Haqqani was a small time social preacher until a poor widow stirred her conscience. Since then he has been on a mission identifying people who need help and those who can help. Shazia Yousuf reports.
Heads turn as she enters the room full of men, busy in a religious discussion with the mosque Imam and some religious teachers. Her eyes wander for a while till they find the Imam and she walks to sit by his side. As the guests watch in awe, the young woman of around 27, breaks the silence, “I have come to inform you that my body is all I am left with to keep my children alive. I will have to sell myself now”
She was a widow of a militant commander from a village who had been killed in an encounter few months back- leaving behind her with the responsibility of raising their two small children.
“Speak for me on the judgement day before my husband. Tell him that you couldn’t take care of his family,” the woman told them and left.
The incident had a deep impact on Syed Mohd Hussain Haqqani, one of the participants. Haqqani had been interested in social activism, and had started Hajj training programme in Kashmir some years prior to that, but the event stirred his conscience and he realised the need for doing more.
And in years to come Haqqani would see himself going from village to village identifying the needy and collect donations for them locally, mostly form the village itself.
Haqani, 56, a resident of Noorani Colony Hyderpora, started his career as a teacher in 1978, soon after his graduation from Amar Singh College. It was not until 1989 – the year he went for Hajj along with his family – that he began his social activism.
“I come from a religious family and was involved in religious activities from childhood but nothing like social service. When I went to perform Hajj, I saw Kashmiris most ignorant about the procedures involved in Hajj(manasik),” recalls haqani.
On his return, the same year he organised the first ever Hajj Guidance programme in Kashmir for intending pilgrims at his own house, free of cost.
“I took help from my friends, and even went to Mumbai and Delhi for Hajj training course. Hundreds of people were given training and it was considered a success,” says Haqani.
However, for Haqani it wasn’t a success yet. He found that only urban people benefited from his program and he wanted to reach to “every corner of Kashmir”.
So he extended his programme. “Those who couldn’t make it to my place, I went to their places to help them and organised hajj guidance programs in far flung villages,” he informs.
Even the state government took notice of the programme and launched a similar program.
“Seeing its impact government contacted us and asked us to organise such programmes for them. My one-room coaching class became the cause of state level Hajj guidance programme,” he says.
It was during one of Haqqani’s programmes in a far flung village, that he saw the widow on the verge of “selling herself”.
“I was curious to know whether she was helped. I enquired after some weeks and to my surprise she was yet to receive any help,” he says.
It was mid 1990’s and her case was not unique, hundreds of families were losing their breadwinners and support, “I wanted to provide financial assistance to the families. But they were in thousands and I would not earn much. So I decided to visit villages, identify the needy people and help them by collecting money from that particular village itself,” he says.
Haqani motivated few of his friends to join him in his new found cause and they would visit far flung areas where they would make announcement for assistance in mosques and collect donations, even in the form of edibles, to distribute among the poor families identified by Haqqani with the help of village elders. The assistance would be sometimes in cash, sometimes in kind.
“I would collect rice, flour, and clothes and distribute the material and the money raised from it,” he recalls.
Though he started with militancy affected, but later he extended support to needy people of all kinds.
With time, his difficulties increased and his friends slowly gave up, leaving him alone. “I had decided to help all identified families but it was not possible single-handedly,” Haqqani says.
He focused more on identifying families in need of help.
By now, he has listed more than a thousand needy families. His efforts help these families get their daughters married off, rehabilitate children and treat patients.
“I made things easier for those who can help. I have no money so I give my time, I announce in mosques and Darsgahs, that whosoever wants to donate or give Zakat, I can provide them the most deserving people which I continue to identify,” he says.
After the 2005 earthquake Haqqani spent many days identifying and listing children orphaned in the devastation. He identified around 100 such orphans with both parents dead and got 15 of them enrolled at the Royal Educational Society – an organisation that works for relief and rehabilitation of poor, in Delhi.
“I met film actor Aslam khan who had come here, he helped me in locating the place where the children could study. I went to Delhi on my own. I requested for the admission of all the orphans but they agreed on 15. The children come to my home whenever they are on a visit,” he smiles.
His profession as a teacher, however, took a backseat. He has been on an unpaid leave for many years but makes a living on his family’s pharmaceutical business.
Three years back, Haqqani also started Noorani Yateem Trust in his locality from the funds raised there itself. Some children are enrolled there.