Srinagar: Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq laid foundation of a Kashmiri Pandit’s house under the Akh Akis (all together) initiative aimed at rebuilding 100 houses damaged in the September floods.
“Mr Moti Lal did not leave Kashmir when other Pandit brothers left. He has been with people through thick and thin. I think it is our duty to start rehabilitation with the family which has not left us. It’s a humanitarian effort and there is no politics in it,” Mirwaiz told reporters after laying foundation of the first-ever house to come up post floods with the help of the pro-freedom group’s support.
He said that members of the majority community had unanimously decided that the first house to be constructed under the initiative in the locality should be that of a Kashmiri Pandit. The decision, he said, was a befitting reply to those elements hell bent on dividing people on the basis of religion.
“We also want to convey our message that Muslims, Pandits and Sikhs suffered in this natural disaster. We’ll carry all of them along in our endeavour. We’ll help all irrespective of their religion or political affiliations,” he said.
About 800 people from different walks of life have decided to volunteer for the next two months for the project, he added. “The response of people is overwhelming.”
The proposed houses, estimated to cost between Rs 5 and Rs 6 lakh, will be spread over 600 sq ft and will have two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. He said that the Dar-ul-Khair has received more than Rs 1.25 crore in donations so far and was expecting more.
“We’re not dependent on the government. We’re facing a difficult time undoubtedly. But I’m very confident that if the youth come forward, if the people come forward, we’ll be able to come out of this difficult time sooner than later,” he said.
“In several humanitarian crises, international organizations have come forward. But politics is played when it comes to Kashmir. And this time also humanitarian organisations especially financial organisations were not allowed to help the people of Kashmir,” he added.
Accusing New Delhi and the state government of leaving the people of Kashmir to suffer by announcing polls, the Hurriyat Conference chairman said that about 50,000 houses were completely damaged by floods in Srinagar city alone.
“This was the time when people needed roof over their heads. People are homeless today. And rather than focusing on this issue, politics is being done over the sufferings of the people,” he said.
He said it was unjustified on the part of those forces, who want to carry an “exercise” just to give an impression the democracy on the ground is very much vibrant.
Earlier, addressing a gathering at Mandir Bagh, Mirwaiz said that the Kashmiri nation has proved that they can stand up at their own in the most difficult times. He said the courage demonstrated by the people of Kashmir, especially the youth during and post-floods is commendable.
“Our aim is not only to build homes. We also strive for community building. We want Kashmiris to be strong enough so that they can face any challenge,” he said, adding “We have gone through a lot during the last 20 years. And now, we saw the flood fury as well. This has been a difficult time for us. But people with their strength, commitment and courage have shown we can rise again,”
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Moti Lal, a former professor, said that he was thankful to Mirwaiz for extending his unconditional help in the turbulent times. He said he and his family were shifting from one place to another after the floods damaged their house.
“I had never expected that that my house will again come up. The clothes I’m wearing are all we have. I can’t narrate what has befallen us,” Lal said, before bursting into tears.
Lal’s elder daughter Kusum also expressed her gratitude to Mirwaiz and Syed Ali Shah Geelani for helping them out in difficult situation.
“We had no expectations that government will help us. It’s because of Mirwaiz we’ll have a home again. He has given us a hope to live again,” she added.