SRINAGAR: Seven engineering graduates from Srinagar’s National Institute of Technology (NIT) came together seven years ago to form Akhdan, “best friend”, a collective to take care of needy people in Kashmir.
Akhdan was started after months of deliberations which came to the conclusion that “indifference is no longer an option”. The friends began by helping the poor receive education. They did relief work during the September 2014 floods. Akhdan, they say, has brought them closer both to each other and to society.
Akhdan, meaning best friend in Arabic, was formed in the year 2010 by Imad ul Muzaffar Khan, Maqbool Aga, Saheel Allaqband, Rayees Ahmad Dar, Shahid Bashir, Basharat Bashir and Haider Hussain. They are now in their mid or late 20s and most of them work as engineering professionals but they continue to also work for Akhdan.
“We mainly work to help youth achieve excellence in academics with the help of workshops, seminars, vocational trainings and other courses. We help downtrodden families with monthly financial assistance so that their children get education. We have also helped some sisters with their marriage,” Shahid Bashir said.
The group worked extensively after floods inundated the Valley in September 2014. “That was when we realised the true nature of our work and the need to intensify our work, as we came across a city of people in need,” Shahid said. “We began by distributing immediate relief to various areas of Kashmir and then financially supported many families for over a year. We also gave substantial help for construction of houses to at least five families.”
The funding of Akhdan, the members say, is mostly ‘internal’. The friends have been contributing money since the group began.
“Every month, all the members contribute towards Akhdan. Majority of them are pass-outs from NIT Srinagar. Apart from that, we try to gather aid from our contacts whenever there is a case which needs immediate help,” Basharat Bashir said.
Akhdan not only works to help people in need but to also instil responsibility among member students towards their society, Basharat said.
“Whenever a case comes to us, we constitute an investigation team which comprises essentially one or two students and a team leader. This is the first instance where the student realises the harsh realities of life and the importance of help,” Basharat explained. Surviving was not easy, the members said. It was the dedication of the members and, most importantly, the help that came from people who came forward to keep Akhdan going.
“A lot of people keep coming to us to be part of the support system we provide. This gave us the adequate impetus to carry on with our work. They inspire us,” Basharat said.
Apart from the seven core members, who look after the operational part of Akhdan, the team also comprises about 15 registered members and other students from various colleges. “Every year a new batch of students is inducted. Those who work outside Kashmir remain in touch with us, and as such form our base financer group,” the members shared.
“There is no office staff and as such our office expenses are almost nil,” Shahid said.