Kashmiri militants have change of heart

Troublemakers transform into social workers, take up jobs at Baramulla hospital

During the summer unrest of 2010, Mushtaq Ahmad Hajam was one of the notorious stone pelters, who was seen as public enemy number one in this north Kashmir town.

But thanks to the intervention of a civil defence voluntary organisation, Hajam is a reformed person now and at the forefront to help people in need.

The 26-year-old lives in the old town of Baramulla, which was the epicentre of stone pelting and unrest in the summer of 2010.

Now, he works as volunteer in the casualty ward of the district hospital at Baramulla for two hours every day.

Here Hajam, a fruit vendor, takes care of those patients who don't have an attendant with them.

Hajam’s transformation from a troublemaker to a valuable social worker came through the efforts of Dr Inyat, who works as medical officer at the District Hospital.

Like Hajam, he has reformed and engaged 12 other chronic stone pelters as social workers in the last one year. Dr Inyat is also the deputy chief of Civil Defence in Baramulla.

“Kashmiri youth lack hubb-ul-watani (patriotism) which is the root cause of every problem. I want to inculcate patriotism in them,” he told Deccan Herald.

“My idea is to engage at least 10 boys from each village who have anti-social tendencies and create a pressure group within society to tackle any natural or man-made disaster,” he said.

It isn't only the stone pelters who have been transformed by him. There are some ex-militants too who work as volunteers at the hospital's Civil Defence Disaster Management Cell. Irshad Ahmad Najar is one such militant-turned-social worker.

Najar, a dreaded militant in the early 90s spent three years in jail and was released in 1997. To repent, Najar says he wants to serve humanity.

“And I found being civil defence volunteer as the best medium to do so. I will be rewarded by God for my good work. When I serve some needy patients, it gives me a lot of satisfaction,” Najar said.

He cites unemployment and underdevelopment in Baramulla as the main reasons for stone pelting in the area.

“A person who has a job and is earning will never resort to violence. It is those who have nothing to do who disrupt peace and tranquility. Some drug addicts are also involved in stone pelting,” he said.

Ask Najar about Kashmir’s problem, and he says, “My advice to the youth of Kashmir is to not burn schools and public property as they belong to our future generation.

When children of the rich are not bothered about azadi (freedom) why should the sons of the poor be  made scapegoats,” he said.

According to Dr Inyat, in the last three years, around 1,000 people have enrolled to become civil defence volunteers. “Out of them 500 have been given clearance by police while verification cases of the rest are under process,” he said.

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