It is 5 pm in the evening, people are off work and most of them heading for
recreational and rejuvenating activities to a park which is well fenced and properly
taken care of by locals of the vicinity.There is lot of hustle and bustle, some strolling,
others chatting in groups and many playing with toddlers. Among hundreds there is
assembly of five, resting under tall and humongous chinar tree, stripped off leaves, located
at the center of park with few more around it. One among them who is surrounded by,
,asked for help and given patient hearing to, is not visible. Getting a bit closer to
company of five, it revealed the man making strong arguments, in his mid forties, is visually
impaired Muhammad Shafi Mir, hailing from magam, a village in frontier district kupwara of Jammu and Kashmir.
Born in a family, where agricultural work was order of the day, MS Mir was fortunate enough to have been admitted in a government run school. But the real test began
when in class, he was unable to pick up lines written on blackboard. “Sometimes, i would ask my mates to read it for me and get me out of the situation,” recalls Mir. As low vision was innate in him, the process to continue with studies was getting extremely difficult. Facing difficulty in reading from normal distance, Mir says ” i began to keep 3 inch distance between my eyes and a book, taking toll on my overall health.” Adding, those were unforgettable moments of his life. With his undying passion and zeal for studies, he graduated from GDC Handwara and later on went to pursue P.G in englih from Kashmir university.
Just after post graduation in 1999, nightmare was awaiting Mir in the form of complete blindness which actually was the biggest shock ever for outspoken Doctor( Muhammad Shafi locally known ).As he was deprived of little left vision, Mir recalls “I was in dilemma for almost a decade, during which i had made radio my companion day in and day out.” For those ten years he had confined himself to four walls of a room”. Dr had developed unnatural attitude, neither ready to talk nor listen to anyone except radio,” says one of the local resident.
After 2010 turmoil, this state of hopelessness and despondency had to found an exit route, with the induction of Dr Mushataq in Primary health centre magam who got in touch with Mir during a regular check up and from there things got new shape. “I came across his life history, began to encourage and counsel him in whatever way I could, ” says Dr Mushtaq. As per doctors he was diagnosed with depression and diabetes, diseases that occurred over a period of time. After sometime he was ready to mingle with outer world, with Dr Mushataq pushing him to take part in seminars and workshops to represent his own community of specially abled, acquainted with his oratory and leadership skills.
“Purely due to efforts of Dr Mushtaq, i set off for new journey or wished to relive my life which was in shambles after 1999 incident, ” says Mir. Now the change was visible on ground with Mir being appointed as warden of civil defence at the district level. More exposed to the world around him, more novel ideas he came up with. One such was Widows Orphans and Handicapped trust j&k (WO&HT),of which he is a chairman. ” Idea knocked, when i came to know this section of society is being exploited by middle man who ask for huge sums to get their(WO&H) work done in social welfare department,”clamis Mir. Now the trust takes up cases, bear the travel expenses and has succeeded in its endeavour at a very large scale. Dr Mushataq who is also a social activist and member of the trust says, ” Trust does ground verification and assist financially the deserving ones but it is not enough. Govt needs to increase monthly monetary assistance of the under-prevliged so they too can lead a more dignified life”.
Schooling the Unshooled
Last year on 7th June 2016, Shekih- ul- alam school for specially abled was formally inaugurated at panzgam Kupwara, which is one of its kind in north kashmir, headed by M.S Mir. As of now, school is housed in a rented building because its own building collapsed during winter due to heavy snowfall. Initially 23 male and female students were enrolled in the institution which is upto 5th class but later on they(authority) had to wind up because students were mentally retarded, unable to grasp anything and making the job of the concerned difficult. “As new session is approaching we are going to advertise for admissions, for which many have already approached us, with a condition set by authority that anyone who seeks entry should not be mentally retarded, “said Dr Mushtaq. On being asked what prompted you take such a step for the ignored strata of socicety? Mir says, ” We have schools for blind but deaf and dumb are left out and this very initiative wants to fill that gap. Apart from it, the miniscule representation of the community compelled me to take a step in this direction.” Knowing that his contribution to the community will give many a chance to realise their dreams, Mir says, its is not going to end here but education will always remain a priorty.”