In a village in Handwara, groups of youth could be seen moving from door to door to collect money, rice and other food items from those who could afford to part with these, while another group was doing a “survey” of which households were in need.
As Kashmir reeled under 51 days of curfew — it will be lifted Monday — residents of remote Zachaldara village, 80 km north of Srinagar, took it on themselves to provide support to families who were living hand to mouth. “These are hard times and we have to support one another,” said Abdul Gaffar Banday, who leads prayers at a local mosque. “We collected more than 300 quintals of rice from our village, and have distributed around 20 to 25 quintals among the needy so far.”
In various places across Kashmir, residents worked out their own ways to try and help their neighbours with supplies.
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At Chhota Bazar in Srinagar, a charity set up by residents over a decade ago came into play during curfew. “We have categorised people in our locality,” said Firdous Amin, a volunteer. “Our first priority is daily wagers, people who have lost their source of income. In the past, we have helped people in neighbouring areas too. But during this curfew, we have focused only on our own locality.”
At Batamaloo in Srinagar, a local trade association was running a charity from a mosque. “We have made public the phone numbers of our volunteers. If a volunteer gets a call, he takes a pack and drops it at the caller’s home,” said a volunteer. “Each volunteer keeps the assigned beneficiary totally secret, even from other volunteers”.
It is not just food that was being provided by these voluntary groups — they provided medicine too. In Anantnag, the most affected district, youth set up a medical camp at the district hospital. “Ours is a joint effort by people from different walks of life and different religious ideologies. We have united under the banner ‘Youth of Islamabad’ [a local name for Anantnag],” said Asif Dada, one of the volunteers. “Though we focus mainly on healthcare, we also provide food to patients and attendants”.
Until Sunday, ‘Youth of Islamabad’ had donated 124 pints of blood, provided free medicines to more than 450 civilians injured by pellets and bullets fired by security forces, and given medicine to around 7,000 people in the town, volunteers said. “People of the town came forward and donated money to us,” Dada said. “Chemists and medical representatives helped us get medicine”.
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