Srinagar, Oct 2: ‘So, you are into social work. But what do you do for a living?’ is the usual response Qurat-ul- AinMasoodi, a young social worker, elicits on introducing herself.
Yet, a very few people know the difference her non-governmental organisation, Aash, has made to several lives. And these days, Qurat-ul-Ain and her team is ready to organise a joint wedding for 45 destitute girls at Khansahib, Budgam, in central Kashmir.
Making the event, scheduled to take place on October 9-10, has taken them two months of untiring efforts, which includes the team making an ‘elementary marriage kit’ available to each bride-to-be.
The kit comprises a copy of the Holy Qur’an, dresses, footwear, gold earrings, and a sewing machine.
“It might be my passion to help people, but right now it is more of a responsibility. I am accountable to 90 families, and I want to ensure that this event becomes a memorable one for them,” Qurat-ul-Ain explains,
Visibly tired by the sleep deficit and longer working hours, she constantly makes calls to enquire meticulously about the marriage paraphernalia.
For Qurat-ul-Ain, life is a constant battle against institutions that ought to offer care and support to needy people.
A certain day, Qurat-ul-Ain explains, she was on a fieldtrip when two young girls desperate for help met with her.
Their families had been unable to get them married owing to financial constraints. The deplorable state of their families shocked her.
“When these two girls approached me, I was helpless, for I had no funds to offer assistance. However, I circulated their plea around and received a good response. Soon after, two more girls appealed for help, and so the number kept increasing from there,” explains Qurat-ul-Ain, who calls Mother Teresa her inspiration.
“Majority of these girls are orphans and have almost no means to get married. As the number grew, I decided to conduct a mass marriage instead of getting them married individually.”
The journey from the initial appeal to raising enough funds has been a bumpy ride; she faced one hurdle after another.
Only her belief in the “basic goodness of mankind”, and the strength of her principles steered her team away from giving up.
“People here are very sceptical about giving donations. They begin to smell rat in everything,” says the social worker.
“I won’t blame them as there are many fraudulent organizations who take undue advantage in the garb of charity. I had a really hard time convincing them for donate for the cause. It’s my inner strength that has helped me to fight back.”
Having “observed closely the hypocrisy of the society”, she laments the extravagance in weddings, and holds it directly responsible for the “growing number” of dowry deaths.
“This evil is increasing on account of the onslaught of consumerism and materialism. The only way to defeat it fully is that the girls must respect themselves as equal partners in building a society. They must insist upon equal rights, and boys must learn that asking for dowry is a heinous act, not something to be perpetuated,” says Qurat-ul-Ain.
She believes that in order to curb social evils, mass weddings are important.
“The present statistics suggest that around 30,000 unmarried girls including widows have crossed the age of marriage. Their prime reason of not getting married is because they don’t have the resources to bear the marriage expenses.”
The young social worker desires to organise more such weddings in future.
“You see, these mass marriages will itself lead to anti-dowry campaign. It’s a revolution, and revolutions happen gradually, not in one go.”
She is also planning to expand her work to other districts.
“For now, I have focused on just one district but we have plans of covering other districts as well. I want to make mass marriages a common phenomenon. Once that happens, the imbalance created by the social evils will get fixed on their own,” says Qurat-ul-Ain.
New party in the offing: Faesal wants public money for ‘clean politics’
Srinagar, Jan 23: Former IAS officer Shah Faesal Wednesday launched a crowd-funding campaign for “clean politics and corruption-free administration” in Jammu and Kashmir hinting towards his plans to float his own political party.
The 2010-batch topper of the UPSC civil services exam said it was a “people’s movement for change”.
“Be a part of this journey for clean politics and corruption-free administration in J&K. Support Shah Faesal with your small donations,” he tweeted.
Faesal, who resigned from government service earlier this month, gave a bank account number for contributions and said payments could also be made through e-wallet.
Taking to a social networking site Facebook, Faesal wrote: “I had never imagined that my small act of defiance to highlight political deadlock in Jammu and Kashmir would evoke such a response across the world.”
He added that he had never thought that his “dream of clean politics and corruption-free administration” in J&K would take the shape of a “public movement”. “Respecting the public sentiment, I have decided to chart my independent political journey. And now in this new phase of public service, my mission is to support the true cause of humanity, stand up for the poor, marginalized and dispossessed and speak up for injustices, wherever in this world, irrespective of caste, colour, region, and religion,” he wrote.
Faesal said he imagined a politics where youth can “lead the change and take charge of their future”.“I wish to partner with a new generation of young leaders who can stand up for human rights, environment, free speech and rule of law. My idea is to seek help from the people of India, build alliances with the Indian civil society and intellectual class to humanize the narrative around Kashmir conflict so that lasting peace can be achieved in J&K State.”
He added that his “mission” was to “truthfully represent aspirations, culture, fears, and dreams” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, across the world.“I wish to facilitate dialogue between people of various regions of the State – Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Pir Panchal, and Chenab Valley so that an environment of amity and brotherhood can be built. I believe that development and dignity must go together, and we have to work together for giving a sense of security, better education, healthcare, livelihoods, electricity and other civic amenities to people of J&K State.”
“This is a people’s movement and it will be funded by the people. People are the only agencies who will help this succeed. Believe in me, be patient with me in this long and difficult journey and donate for this cause,” he wrote.
Earlier Faesal had resigned dubbing it as protest against “unabated killings in Kashmir, and lack of any sincere reach-out from the Union government; the marginalisation and invisiblisation of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces reducing them to second-class citizens; insidious attacks on the special identity of J&K and growing culture of intolerance and hate in mainland India in the name of hypernationalism”.
While he has made it clear that he would like to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Faesal has not joined any political party so far. Speculation is rife that he might float a new political outfit.
Priyanka Gandhi debuts in active politics: Mehbooba dubs her ‘X factor of 2019 polls’
New Delhi, Jan 23: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, has finally taken the plunge into politics, just months ahead of the national election due by May.
Often dubbed the “Brahmastra” or the mythical ultimate weapon of the Congress, Priyanka will debut as the party’s general secretary in charge of the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, which pitches her against the ruling BJP’s top two mascots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi–whose constituency Varanasi will be in her share–and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
“I have not sent Priyanka and Jyotiraditya for just two months. I have sent them to take the Congress’ ideology forward in Uttar Pradesh,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters.
Among many noted personalities congratulating Priyanka was former J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, who tweeted: “Welcome Priyanka Gandhi to the rough and tumble of politics. She brings with her the grace of Gandhi Nehru lineage and her immense personal charm. Wish her the best. Could she become the Xfactor of 2019 poll battle?”
47-year-old Priyanka, who reminds many of her grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for both her charisma and the stunning likeness, is seen as a natural in politics but she has confined herself to the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi–Amethi and Raebareli–till now.
In national and state elections since 2004, the mother-of-two has campaigned exhaustively in the family seats where the Gandhis enjoy almost royal status.
Reports say her appointment to a key position reflects the Congress’s realisation that in a politically vital state like Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary seats and is considered the route to power at the centre, the party needs to up its game and cannot afford just one in-charge. It is a huge gamble for the Congress, a sign that the party is all for aggressively taking on PM Modi and the BJP in the coming election.
The Congress dropped the Priyanka bombshell in the third para of a press statement that also announced that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be in charge of western UP. The giant announcement came as Rahul Gandhi began a two-day visit to Amethi. Priyanka Gandhi is in New York and is expected to return on February 1.
Congress leaders say Priyanka Gandhi’s arrival in party politics will galvanise the ranks that have been demoralised by the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav move to form an alliance in UP for the national election without the Congress, which has been pitching for a grand opposition alliance to take on the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi commented that the BJP was “panicking”.
The ruling party has been repeatedly targeting Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra, a businessman being investigated for allegedly corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan. Robert Vadra congratulated his wife in a Facebook post: “Congratulations P… always by your side in every phase of your life.”
In national and state elections since 2004, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has campaigned in the family seats where the Gandhis enjoy almost royal status.
Priyanka Gandhi was always active in decision-making and played a key role in the alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election. She also reportedly oversaw the party meeting in which her older brother was crowned Congress president.
The BJP shrugged off the Congress announcement. “Rahul Gandhi failed so they need Priyanka as a crutch. Can’t they find anyone beyond that family?” sneered BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Srinagar-Jammu Highway still closed
Jammu, Jan 23: A massive snow-clearance operation was underway to restore the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar Highway which remained closed for vehicular traffic for the third consecutive day Wednesday, officials said.
The snow clearance operation on both sides of the Jawahar Tunnel–the gateway to Kashmir–was started and the snow-clearance operation is going on in full swing, said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic Highway, Pardeep Singh Sen.
An avalanche had also struck the Jawahar Tunnel area on Tuesday, blocking both tubes on Qazigund side.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the Jawahar tunnel stretch of the highway, pressed its men and machines to clear the road of the accumulated snow on Tuesday, Sen said.
“We are expecting the highway to be open for traffic by late afternoon. However, only the stranded vehicles will be allowed to move on the highway once we get the green signal,” he said.
Hundreds of vehicles, mostly trucks, are stranded at various places along the highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country, officials said.
They said the road from Banihal, which recorded over two and a half feet of snow, to Jawahar tunnel was also being cleared, while the Banihal-Ramban stretch is almost clear after agencies concerned removed minor landslides and stones which came down at different places due to incessant rains.
After three-day long wet spell across Kashmir, the weather showed improvement with local meteorological department forecasting dry weather till January 29.
The three-day-long wet spell ended across the Valley today. The MeT department had predicted improvement in the weather conditions from Tuesday evening.
The local Meteorological department said that there is no forecast of rain or snowfall across the Valley till January 29 here, saying that the weather would remain cloudy on Jan 25.
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