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Known for spirituality, a towering figure rated high at the realm of spiritual education, Alhaj Ghulam Qadir Ganipuri was born in an improvised terrain of Bhalessa (Doda) in Jammu and Kashmir.  He was also referred to as a Peer-I-Tareeqat. His disciples regard him as “Murshid”.  He had taught in several Governmental schools as Teacher in Bhalessa (Doda).

Alhaj was known for his honesty as he apt to donate all his holiday/ Sundays salary for charity.  Later he started his spritual life, He spread the Madersa Education in the entire Chenab valley in by establishing a first of its kind innovative Madersa – JamiaGunyatulUloom at Bhatyas (a hamlet near Doda) in 1983. Alhaj named this Jamia after the Jenab Abdul GaniSadiqui.  Haji sahib has set up a Trust- GunyatulUloom Charitable Trust under the aegis of which Madersa function. The Madrsa has been setup at the pattern of Darul UloomDeoband, Utter Pradesh.

At Jamia, handreds of Islamic clerics, Ulema and Hafiz at produced at specialisation level. Alhaj Ganipuri was known for spirituality, there are thousands of his disciples who got shock from his death. Bhalessa, carpeted with evergreen forests and dotted with tiny hamlets, is home to roughly equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims, Owing to movements of several so called leaders of communities for their divisive policies, strong ties bind other Hindus and Muslims and have halted the complete polarization of the populace. This is something that I've been attempting to study since long.

Youginder Sikand- a researcher par excellence working in Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi conducted an extensive tour of the area to study Hindu Muslim relations in Bhalessa. He wrote on Hundu-Muslim relations of Bhalessa. He met Alhaj Ghulam Qadir Ganipuri sahib. Yogi pointed that the people of the area owe peace and end the nefarious designs.

One his visit to this improvised area He wrote, the story goes like this…..! “For the last five years, things began limping back to a semblance of 'normality' in the Doda including Bhalessa. The number of killings registered a rapid decline. Long spells of curfew were done away with. As were the army checkpoints that had come up at every kilometer or so on the road connecting Bhalessa with Doda and Jammu.

My friends in Doda, Hindus and Muslims, were ecstatic about the prospects of peace. But now, with the ongoing agitation in Jammu and in Kashmir over the Amarnath yatra, that might be a mere chimera if things are allowed to spin out of control, as they indeed seem to be”. Yogi- A good friend of mine shared with me during my interaction with him as like this:-“It was a little after noon that we arrived in Bhatyas, a settlement consisting of a row of houses and shops along the main road, some seven kilometers from main town.
 

Exhausted and ravenous, we entered a tea-shop, whose amiable owner rustled up for us a sumptuous meal of rajma-chawal, standard fare in these parts.” “We shared the single table with a friendly young Muslim man, a peasant from a village nearby. 'Times are bad', he said gravely. 'Just the other day, a young man was killed in a village in this area'. He went on to speak about how a group of militants had stopped the vehicle of a local BJP activist, demanded that the Special Police Officer accompanying the man hand them his weapon, and then fled into the forest on the other side of the river.

In retaliation, he said, a Hindu member of the local Village Defence Committee (VDC) had shot dead a Muslim lad in the village, the only son of his parents. The boy, he stressed, had nothing to do with militancy. The enraged Muslims of the village demanded that the VDC member be arrested and his weapon, provided to him by the state, be seized.

Consequently, he went on, several Hindu families had left the village and were camping in Gandoh in order to prevent this from happening. 'The situation in the village is still very tense', the man said, when we asked him if we could go there to see things for ourselves. The man shortly left us, and a short while later we were joined at the table by an elderly Hindu, a shopkeeper. His version of the recent events was quite different. According to him, the boy had been killed in cross-firing between militants and the VDC team and had not been deliberately killed by the latter.

Fearing retaliation by militants, he said, several Hindu families had fled the village and had taken refuge in Gandoh. Although we could not verify whose claim was correct, the two very different accounts of the same event brought home to us the sharp communal divide in Gandoh, a result of the many years of unrelenting conflict and violence the area has witnessed. At the same time, what was equally striking was how, despite the walls of suspicion that have come up between local Hindus and Muslims, the two communities continue to live together in the same towns and villages in relative peace, barring occasional incidents.

While sporadic killings of civilians lead to further polarisation and mistrust, there are other forces that are at work that help maintain centuries'-old bonds between Hindus and Muslims in this area. And one of these was a Sufi we had come all the way from Doda town to meet, Haji Sahib of Akhiyarpur.  A two-hour walk up a steep slope brought us to Akhiyarpur, to Haji Saheb's modestly furnished meeting chamber. We were accompanied half the way by two local Muslim youth, who, while they
said they were the best of friends, were politically completely at odds. The older one was bitter about the militants, and insisted that most locals, Muslims, and, of course, Hindus, felt the same way. His cousin, he told us, had been kidnapped and killed by a group of militants because he had refused to pay them a certain sum that they had demanded or else provide them with one of his own sons as a recruit.

 'Earlier, many militants were in the movement for purely ideological reasons and that is why they enjoyed considerable support', he stressed. 'But now', he said, 'unemployed and illiterate youth have joined the movement. Wielding a gun gives them a sense of power, which some of them doesn’t hesitate to misuse to settle their own personal scores'. The man's friend shrugged off his comments.

'Don't listen to him', he insisted. He made no effort to conceal his support for the militants and their cause. 'Muslims continue to be persecuted in India. See what happened in Gujarat', he said. 'So, how can we ever willingly agree to live in a country where Muslims have no place?', he wanted to know.

The men left us roughly half way up the mountain. For the rest of the strenuous walk ahead I juggled in my mind what they both had said, trying to imagine how I would have looked at the world if I were in their place. The thought was hardly comforting, for, clearly, like almost everyone else in the area, they had seen or else heard of death and destruction in their neighborhood on an almost daily basis.

When we finally arrived at Akhiyarpur and entered Haji Sahib's room, he was sitting in a corner on a mattress with a crowd of supplicants in rows in front of him. Most of them were Muslims, but some, I later discovered, were Hindus, too. A few of them had come from so far as Poonch and Kathua in the hope of a miraculous cure to their woes.

One by one they narrated their troubles to Haji Sahib in hushed tones. He listened to each of them patiently, advising them on what to do. After the last of his other visitors had left, Haji Saheb turned towards us. His eyes were soft, yet sad, gentle and the same time firm and determined. He looked considerably younger than the roughly seventy that we were told he was. Haji Sahib, we had been told, was a Sufi who was held in considerable respect and reverence by many local Muslims as well as Hindus. He went on, on our asking him, to tell us about himself.
 

He had, he told us, taught for over four decades in various government schools in Gandoh tehsil and was now running the one of the area's few private schools. In this relatively inaccessible and impoverished part of Doda, this was no mean achievement. The school is till the tenth grade and is affiliated to the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education. Most of the roughly 1000 students come from poor families, and the fees are relatively low. Numerous very poor children receive education free of cost. The school has a number of Hindu students, and almost a tenth of its teachers are Hindus, the rest being Muslims.

In addition to the school, Haji Sahib has set up a madrasa, the Jamia Ganiatul Ulum, which has some fifty students training to become ulama or Islamic clerics. Most of these children are from impoverished families, and in the madrasa they receive free education, boarding and lodging as well as the possibility of a job as a religious specialist once they graduate. Jamia Gunyat ul Uloom Bhatyas established in the year 1983 and was named after Hazrat Abdul Gani Sadiqui. This Madersa was setup by Peer-i-Tareeqat Alhaj Ghulam Qadir Ganipuri sahib.

The madrasah is managed by Gunyat Ul Uloom Trust Bhalessa is the largest Institution imparting Madrasah and academic education to the students of hilly terrain of Bhalessa.It currently has more than a thousand students on its rolls. Patterned on the Dar ul Uloom Deoband model, it is one of the few madrasah’s in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that provide Islamic education till the Alim Fazil or specialization level.

Our conversation turned to the ongoing conflict in the region. Hindus and Muslims, Haji Sahib assured us, had traditionally lived harmoniously in the area, even in the tumultuous days of the Partition. Killing an innocent person, he referred to the Qur'an as saying, is tantamount to slaying the whole of humankind. That principle applied in every case, he stressed, when I asked him about the atrocities committed both by militants as well as Indian soldiers, which were not few in number. 'May God grant the world His blessings', he cryptically replied in response to my query about the possibility of a realistic resolution to the Kashmir conflict.

The Haji Saheb insisted we spend the night in the village. In any case, we had missed the last vehicle to Doda and it was simply too dangerous to trek back to the main road after sunset. And so we were directed to the house of a friend of the Haji Sahib, a steep ascent ahead.  An hour later we found ourselves snuggled under layers of thick cotton quilts, tucking into a sumptuous meal in the house of the principal of Haji Sahib's school.

The principal and his son were impeccable hosts, and despite the fact that we were complete strangers and uninvited guests we were treated like some long-lost friends. We talked late into the night, mostly on the ongoing conflict and the impact this had had on Hindu-Muslim relations. Before we finally retired for the night, the principal read out to us a letter written by him and recently published in a Jammu-based Urdu newspaper.

To protest the deadly massacre of more than two dozen Hindus in Kulhand, a hamlet near Doda, in May, the letter stated, Jammu town observed a complete shut-down. That very morning the principal's grandson, a student in Jammu University, had to appear for an important examination.

He assumed that because of the strike the examination had been postponed. In the afternoon, he rang up a Hindu friend of his, who told him, to his shock, that the examination was actually on schedule and that he had just entered the examination hall. No vehicles were plying in the streets that day and the principal's son had no way out to reach the university. However, his friend magnanimously rushed out of the examination hall and sped on his motorcycle all the way to his
house and picked him. They arrived in the examination hall just in time to write their paper. 'Such examples of Hindu-Muslim harmony and friendship must be regularly highlighted in the press', the letter stressed.  As ill luck would have it, Haji sahib known for cementing Hindu Muslim relations not remained among us and left this world on 24th of July 2015 at his hometown Gandoh Bhalessa (RIP).

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  • “Kids in Bandipore are sharp and keen learners who if given the right opportunities and exposure can do wonders”

JAMMU: The Education is not merely for kids to clear exams and get degrees but also to open their minds and help them form opinions to make informed choices and that's where the difference between education and excellent education comes in. This was expressed by Jigyasa Labroo, a Teach for India fellow in Delhi, where she is committed to teaching children in an under resourced low income school for two years.

Presently Jigyasa Labroo is in Kashmir Valley’s Bandipore district working with Deputy Commissioner (DC) Dr. Shah Faesal's New Leaf Initiative (NLI) to improve educational standards in the schools in district of Bandipore by creating model schools and teacher training.

Talking to Editor-in-Chief of JK Monitor, Ajmer Alam Wani, Jigyasa expressed concern about state of education in Bandipore for which she mentioned that aser survey shows dismal results, one of the lowest in Kashmir.

Jigyasa observed is that the kids are sharp and keen learners who if given the right opportunities and exposure can do wonders. She further added that Teach for India along with the New Leaf Initiative (NLI) plans to impart the correct training to teachers so that the potential of these kids is realized.

Though born in Himachal Pradesh (HP), and brought up in Himachal and Chandigarh, Jigyasa is a Kashmiri by origin.

Jigyasa had come to Kashmir with an open mind regardless of what people had told her regarding the tension here and during her a month long stay here she was glad to do that because she found everyone in Kashmir friendly.

Having really great time in Kashmir she hoped that will leave Kashmir having contributed meaningfully by executing her project ‘Slam out Loud’ which she is executing these days in Kashmir.

In Kashmir, she has done two poetry workshops till now in Army Public School Srinagar and Government Higher Secondary School for Girls in the remote district of Bandipore for free.

Jigyasa told JK Monitor, that she started the initiative called Slam Out Loud, (SOL) which is a nonprofit initiative since December last year as project which aims to organize poetry as well as story telling events for children  to bring the art of Spoken Word to  classrooms and beyond.

She further added, “All we are trying at SOL is to build an arts community for our kids to collaborate, come and start projects together, meet, talk, learn and appreciate art. That is all we want to do-create a beautiful afternoon bimonthly, where our kids tell their stories through art, and we've begun by poetry and storytelling.  We are doing our events all over India, the last ones being in Delhi, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal”.

Jigyasa completed her education in Engineering from Delhi and have been living there since last five years. After Engineering, she decided to contribute to the society through a meaningful cause and hence joined the Teach For India fellowship.

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  • Teaching being one of the noble professions has just become the job option for an easy going life

  • Teachers in J&K have an additional responsibility of bringing 
    the state out of crunches in order to build human resources to make it a prosperous state.
  • I have seen a general trend of people not calling others with appropriate names rather calling them Pahadi, Ajaska, Kaji, Haji, Nicka, Thaida, Mudd, etc. which a teacher should be 
    sensitive and conscious about.
  • Being respectful is the most important thing a student needs to learn during schooling.
  • Bringing politics into the classroom should be the most 
    dangerous thing to do it will lead to nothing but shear waste of child’s precious learning time.
  • Due to lesser student participation during the lessons they have stopped using their brains and have become less expressive
  • When I came to Kashmir for this project I could see a stark difference between the knowledge that I had and the reality here. The way certain teachers behaved, totally theoretical no trace of practicality, no accountability, zero responsibility, less sensitized regarding choice of words and lack of willingness to work.
JAMMU:   She was just 21 years old when for the first time visited Kashmir in 2009 as a tourist but eventually fell in love with the place and certainly felt like home. It was then that she could see the difference between the three provinces of Jammu and Kashmir state, and have a first-hand experience of the diversity.

During her visit, she just kept observing the places as these were the ones she had been hearing the stories about. Also, she could for the first time compare her life with that of her parents. Comparing the childhood setting was another incredible experience which she would have never thought of had she not visited Kashmir.

For her Kashmir was just incredibly beautiful place that she used to think about, mostly the Lidder Valley. The flowing water of Lidder still makes her feel refreshed.

Jeewika Bhat, who has recently joined Teach For India, Delhi chapter as a fellow, had decided to go for a project in rural area, though she had finalized Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir but when she came across the New Leaf Initiative (NLI) by the PMRDFs in Bandipore she saw it as an opportunity to serve her homeland and have a first-hand experience of how the things work.  Since, it was just a month long project; she was of the opinion that knowing the language would be helpful. 

Presently in Kashmir, Jeewika Bhat told Ajmer Alam Wani, Editor-in-Chief of JK MONITOR,  (www.jkmonitor.org) that she used to hear a lot of stories about how her mother, father and their siblings grew up in their respective villages and the way they used to go to school and how they used to climb on the trees for apples, their routines and how it was to have celebrate festivals and ceremonies, etc. Kashmir for sure was the land of her childhood stories and tales.

Open sky, vast fields of rice, magnanimous mountains, Pheran, Kangri, Dariya, Sheen, etc. were the elements she used to think of all the time when she used to listen to these stories. But it was only after she visited Kashmir she realized that how beautiful this place was!

Before her visit to Kashmir she had never seen someone who was a Kashmiri and not her relative. But when she went to her maternal grandfather’s place in Anantnag district, she could see the joyful and curious faces of the villagers who were part of her mother’s lifetill her marriage and they were overwhelmed with joy to see her and were awestruck at the fact that she knew the language so well.

She had a little idea of the issues that the Jammu and Kashmir state was suffering from but couldn’t understand and feel much of it. The words that she constantly heard and were associated with Jammu and Kashmir were militants, Indian Army, migration, Muslim, Pandit, etc. but being a constant visitor to Jammu she could not make connections. Also, she felt bad for the Dogras and other communities as they were equally from the state and were never talked of.

She spent her entire life so far in Delhi. Did her schooling from Sachdeva Public School, Rohini went to Ramjas College, DU for my Bachelors and GGSIPU, Dwarka for M.Sc. Environment Management. She stays with her parents and grandmother in Rohini, New Delhi. However, was working in Pune after her Masters in a start-up consultancy. Then she moved back to Delhi and joined Teach For India, Delhi Chapter as a fellow last year.

As a professional, Jeewika Bhat has worked as a Project Analyst with a Pune based start-up consultancy on several projects dealing on Sustainability Reporting, Carbon Accounting Management Systems and Off-Grid Solar. Thereafter, in 2014, she moved back to Delhi and joined Teach For India, Delhi chapter as a fellow. Currently she teach 40, 5th graders in Walia Public School, Kashmiri Gate.

As in Delhi they have a summer break in schools for the month of May and June, so the fellows go for various projects or internships.Jeewika Bhat too decided to go for a project in rural area. She had finalized Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir. Then she came across the New Leaf Initiative (NLI) by the PMRDFs in Bandipore and she could see it as an opportunity to serve my homeland and have a first-hand experience of how the things work. Since, it was just a month long project; her opinion was, for her knowing the language would be helpful. 

Analyses and experience about education in Kashmir: Jeewika said, the education scenario of the entire country is the same except a 1-2 states. The whole focus of this system should be on child’s learning and development while everything else being just a background picture. But sadly we do not a Child-Centric System. There is no incentive, consequence or accountability for learning. Teaching being one of the noble professions has just become the job option for an easy going life. As rightly said “Kunilagiy n Tebaniymashter”, in case of Kashmir it is the only profession the qualified ones could have.

The importance of being a teacher and feeling good about it is missing in general at all places however at administrations part there are a few changes that can be made so as to ensure accountability and focussed learning. In most of the Northern states there is a class teacher system till primary level (1-5) wherein one teacher is given the responsibility of one class and is responsible for all the admin and other requirements of that class for one academic year. In fact, we at Teach for India also follow more or less the same model, but for two years.

I think, this is one thing that can bring accountability for child’s learning. But above all being respectful and motivated is something teachers need to have within to bring that change. Though, the scenario everywhere is the same, however, the teachers in Jammu and Kashmir have an additional responsibility of bringingthe state out of crunches in order to build human resources to make it a prosperous state. As a matter of fact only ‘a teacher can make a difference’.

Basic things lacking: “I think the exposure to latest teaching practices is lacking along with the soft skills. I have seen a general trend of people not calling others with appropriate names rather calling them Pahadi, Ajaska, Kaji, Haji, Nicka, Thaida, Mudd, etc. which a teacher should be sensitive and conscious about. Being respectful is the most important thing a student needs to learn during schooling. But the brighter side is that I have come across some really dedicated and motivated teachers who are already using their B.Ed. practices in the classroom and a difference in the standard is visible. Also, putting efforts in right direction is really important i.e. towards all children getting excellent education. By saying excellent education I mean a holistic growth which enables a child to make informed decisions throughout his/her life.

The policies need to be child centric and revolve around how best a child can learn, but also keeping in mind the concerns of teachers as well. In context of teacher training and exposing them to different methods of teaching the District Administration of Bandipore along with PMRDFs started off with New Leaf Initiative (NLI) wherein people from different organizations like Teach for India, GyanSetu, Pratham, etc. have been visiting the various schools across the district and interacting with both students and teachers, doing science experiments, star gazing, teacher training, helping teacher to have differentiated learning in the classrooms and schools, introducing art and activity period in the time-table, etc.

This I feel is a great opportunity for both the teachers and students to get exposed to immense possibilities outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the opportunity to create off beat professions inside the state.

Areas that need focus: Jeewika stressed on soft skills and respectful learning, ensuring accountability, technical assistance so as to stop rote learning student participation and lesser teacher talking activity based approach. “A teacher can be a strong barrier between the turbulent and uncertain political situations prevailing in the state and the classroom full of innocent bright future. Bringing politics into the classroom should be the most dangerous thing to do it will lead to nothing but shear waste of child’s precious learning time.

The positive things in J&K Govt schools:  The students are very disciplined and loving. Though due to lesser student participation during the lessons they have stopped using their brains and have become less expressive but there is a huge potential lying out there and the teachers just need to tap it. Also, I have seen some teachers working really hard to make the kids understand the concepts in such cases they just need to know the smart way of doing it by addressing to the different learning styles of children like visual, kinaesthetic, auditory and read-write.

Difference between heard about and found: Well growing up as a Kashmiri was difficult as everyone around used to say Kashmiris are intelligent and highly qualified. Their regard in terms of education was too much to handle. I was told about various dedicated teachers and how people used to consider it a matter of pride to be able to teach. But when I came to Kashmir for this project I could see a stark difference between the knowledge that I had and the reality here. I could see a lot of things that I had never imagined to be true. The way certain teachers behaved, totally theoretical no trace of practicality, no accountability, zero responsibility, less sensitized regarding choice of words and lack of willingness to work.

VISION:  “I feel the quality of education has been suffering throughout the country. It is more saddening for Jammu and Kashmir in particular because this place has a history of having highly qualified men and women. But being one of the turbulent states excellent education is the only way out to uplift the society. Apart from having various teacher friendly but children centric policies sense of responsibility needs to be imparted in teachers and they should be aware of their superpower of getting this state out of a deep mess that it is into.

As per my observations there is a lot that is happening in terms of teacher training, visits by education observers, making learning fun, etc. but somewhere still we forget that children should be the centre of education system. Also, one of the major setback was that teachers need to be trained on soft skills and they need to be a little respectful to students.

There is a lot that government needs to do in terms of making the system more child centric and not just get politics into the classroom, but still there is a lot that a teacher can do in the class to make a difference as their superpower lies within.