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Initiatives for youth, women: How one couple is helping Bhatkal shed the terror tag

A US-based NRI multi-millionaire and his wife are helping locals in the hometown in Karnataka develop job skills.

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury | New Delhi | Published: May 17, 2015 2:19 am
 Bhatkal, Indian Mujahideen Yasin Bhatkal,  Riyaz Bhatkal,  Karnataka Bhatkal,  Karnataka news, india news Zubair Kazi

The small port town of Bhatkal, pushed from relative obscurity to the country’s terror map because of the likes of Indian Mujahideen leaders Riyaz, Iqbal and Yasin Bhatkal, finally has a reason to cheer. A US-based NRI multi-millionaire and his wife are helping locals in the hometown in Karnataka develop job skills, bring Bhatkal women into the mainstream and encourage inter-community ties.

As Bhatkal struggles to rid itself of the terror tag — more recently, Bhatkal residents Sultan Abdul Kadir Armar and Anwar Husain died fighting alongside jihadists in Syria and Afghanistan — Zubair Kazi has been hailed as one of the town’s biggest success stories.

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Kazi, 68, who hails from Bhatkal and was educated in Calicut and Mumbai, moved to the US in 1969 to pursue his dream of becoming a commercial pilot. He reached Los Angeles with four dollars in his pocket, and worked as a cook at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. He went on to become the nation’s second biggest KFC franchisee with around 300 outlets, later buying into the Burger King and Pizza Hut franchise as well.

Downsizing his restaurant business to 100 outlets in the US worth over US$ 150 million, Kazi has diversified with a medical imaging device company and a nutraceutical firm.

Kazi visits Bhatkal once or twice a year. Speaking about the image of the town taking a hit in recent years, Kazi said over the phone from Hawaii, “It’s very sad. When I’m there, I hear these things. I don’t know any of these people. Our young generation needs to look far ahead and do things. Sometimes they take shortcuts to prove themselves. That’s one of the reasons my wife thought we need to educate women so they can take care of their children better. She has set up a 40,000 sq ft centre in Bhatkal to help women.”

Kazi’s wife Khatija, 62, started the Bhatkal women’s centre in May 2012, and spends two-three months at least twice a year in Bhatkal. The centre provides computer courses, montessori and kindergarten classes, classes on spoken English, general knowledge, cooking, stitching and mehendi work. It also has a library and a gymnasium.

“Women in Bhatkal are very shy and follow the purdah system very strictly. There was a dire need to start a facility to bring out their talents. We regularly have exhibitions where people set up stalls. I also try to train people about customer services, on how to behave with customers as one would in the US. My goal is to bring Hindus, Muslims and Christians to work together in harmony and develop friendship,” Khatija said from Bhatkal.

“Our community, which is peaceful and friendly, is sadly misunderstood,” she added.

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  1. H
    May 17, 2015 at 10:00 am
    Bhatkalis are guilty of supporting terroism. Now a days I see I.Express leaning too much towards Muslims and their mentor Congress. Bhatkals get lot of money from the Gulf to fan extremism. Ironically the Bhatkals are converted Brahmins. They dont need Kazi's help. If at all....this Kazi will do well to LURE AWAY THE BHATKAL MUSLIMS from terrorism. BTW is this Kazi interested in helping Hindus of Bhatkal ??? I think NOT....I.E. and other English language Media REFRAIN TO EVEN MENTION THE GOOD DEEDS DONE BY THE RSS. I don't know who coined the word SAFFRON TERRORISM. Had we Hindus resorted to Saffron Terrorism what would have happened ??? Our TOLERENCE IS DUBBED AS COWARDICE......Gujarat got rid of this TAG there and Muslims are falling in line towardsTHEIR OWN PROSPERITY....not OURS !!!! I.E. please stop this NONSENSE reporting.
    1. K
      May 17, 2015 at 12:19 pm
      The root of the problem has and always will be that on an average (well atleast mostly) Muslims always put religion before community/nation or other idenies. With other religions such a behaviour would be an exception but with muslims this is the rule. Doubt any education can change this. Add to this controverisal verses in the quran, subjugation of woman and Saudi petrodollars and you get to see the situation like in Bhatkal.
      1. N
        May 17, 2015 at 6:50 am
        I believe all of us the people of India are basically very good .I wish this experiment and Khazi & Khatiza all the success.
        1. Paddy Singh
          May 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm
          It is idleness and illiteracy that keeps our Talibanised Hindus at the throats of innocent Muslims who want to get on with their lives and Christian converts in India, who have turned to another religion to escape indiscrimination from caste ridden confines, Take a trip to South Hall in the UK to discover where all religions from the subcontinent live and work cheek to jowl, without any problem. And in India there are terrorists from among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, but that does not mean a town or a community should be bed militant.
          1. S
            May 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm
            Its True our youth are behind the illegal business of gold and hawala...wer even religious (ulema) are support with their silence
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