Son of a wealthy landlord, a Kashmiri American is investing his time trying to do his bit to help his homeland. Ikhlaq Qadri meets Bashir G Ahmed

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Rowing in Dal lake for about 10 minutes, I reached a place which made feel that Kashmir really is a heaven. Mesmerizing beauty. Serene Environment. This is the Samad’s Island Of Peace. An island of 33 Kanals with an 8-Kanal Lotus garden. People were working everywhere – in the garden, on the terrace, in the dining hall…

Bashir G Ahmad

I sat under a Chinar tree, where I was to meet Bashir G. Ahmad the owner of the place. The Chinar, they said, is 450 years old. Close by was a small rounded Masjid, known as Masjid Samad.

Bashir, an immaculately dressed bespectacled tall man, is the son of Khawaja Inayatullah and grandson of Rayees Kashmir, Khawaja Samad. The family actually hails from Gakhrabad, now in Pakistan. The original name of the family is Gakhru but they are commonly known as Kakroo.

Rayees-e-Kashmir, Khawaja Samad, was a wealthy landlord known for philanthropy. On the occasion of his son’s marriage, he got 100 beggars dressed the same way as the groom. He also gifted Kabutar Khana, (now Hotel Centaur) to his friend, Maharaja Hari Singh and Shoadi Taqi to the cannabis smokers.

Khawaja was a good friend of Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who during his trip to valley visited the island and offered Namaz in Masjid Samad. The Island witnessed heavy rush during World War-II as air force and army personnel would come here in vacations.

It is said that when valley got electricity, Hari Singh and Khawaja Samad were the only ones to afford it. He is also said to be the first Kashmiri to perform the Hajj through sea route.

The legacy was passed to the Khawaja Sanaullah, who also started one of the oldest businesses of petrol and diesel in Baramulla.

Born in 1942, Bashir got primary education from Presentation Convent and Biscoe. Later he studied at Saint Joseph’s school Baramulla. Afterwards, Bashir went to Hyderabad to pursue Mining Engineering.

Bashir started his career with a brief stint at J&K Cements. He went to the United States in January 1967 to pursue MS in University of Illinois and later did MBA from the same university.

Bashir has worked as an independent management consultant, specializing in human resource development. Conducted seminars and workshops for government, non- government institutions, businesses and industries, educational institutions and non- profit organizations in the area of communications, interpersonal relations, motivation, achievement, leadership, time management, customer relations, youth groups and organisational development and management in general. He has also worked with the United States Air Force, at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio.

Samad’s Island of Peace

He has been a peace activist for the last 25 years, promoting inter-faith peace – often invited to speak on Islam, the Muslim world, conflict resolution. He received a Peace Maker award in February 2002 from Season of Non-violence, a national organisation and a Humanitarian award in October of 2004 from NCCJ (National Conference of Community and Justice). In the year 2001, he also received a Community Leadership Award for his leading role in developing and managing community projects.

He serves as a member of the board of directors of the Dayton International Peace Museum, the only of its kind in the USA, has been the co-founder and the president of the Dayton Islamic School. He has served as the president of the board of the International Academy of Columbus, Ohio and the co-founder and president of the Islamic Council of Ohio formed way back in 1987.

Bashir lives in Dayton Ohio with his American wife. They have a daughter. They used to visit Kashmir regularly but since the inception of militancy, only Bashir visits the valley.

“I have reorganized my priorities since my mother passed away in 2005 by dividing the time between Kashmir and America… I’ve to carry forward the legacy,” he says.

He has formed Care Kashmir International, an advocacy group in Kashmir with several Kashmiri Americans and prominent personalities in Kashmir. It is an apolitical, non-profit organization working on environmental and social issues.

Bashir is planning a residential educational institute besides starting a scholarship at the University of Kashmir.

He believes the resolution of Kashmir issue was necessary for the prosperity of South Asia and holds deliberations of with different people in this regard. “Killings, violence, war are never an answer. To me, there is no conflict that cannot be resolved if the two parties are desirous.”

Bashir was not allowed to come to India for 10 years because of his speeches, across the world, against killings of innocents in Kashmir.

He is an advocate of dialogue, and wants both the Hurriyat’s to not shut the door if there is any proposal from India as he says ALLAH tells us if “enemy wants to talk, listen, don’t shut the door”. “If we will let go the opportunity, India, as usual, will buy time,” Bashir says.

Bashir’s, however, thinks that an independent Kashmir may have no scope as “China will never allow that”. He is also skeptic about the role of United Nations in Kashmir. “Being here what exactly have they done? It is an international game surrounded by three nuclear powers.”

He sees the present unrest in Kashmir as “a bus full of passengers moving without knowing where to go and nobody having control.”

Terming the valley as the bone of contention Bashir says, “Let us face the fact that conflict is of the valley as India controls the prize. Historically being independent for 5000 years, we have our own culture, a race by itself. There actually was never the road to India”

He also says that Pakistan is an equal party to the dispute and believes that it can’t be resolved without involving Kashmiris.

Recommending ceasefire from both sides, Bashir explains that Prime Minister has already termed this as the 63-year long problem. “Ask stone-throwing youth to take a break and wait. Evaluate the proposal. You always have the option of saying no at any point of time,” Bashir says.

As I was about to leave an opposition leader had arrived to meet him.

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