SHAKIR MUSHTAQ PARRAY
In times when mainstream politics was criminalised in Kashmir and those who were associated with it were considered as untouchables, Mohammad Sarfaraz Khan, belonging to a humble background, rose to the occasion and contributed actively in bringing relief to the people of Beerwah, in district Budgam.
Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan had something unusual and magnetic about him that attracted people. Born in an agrarian family in village Hariwanin in Khansahib tehsil of Budgam, Khan received basic education in Budgam. After matriculation he could not continue with his formal studies, but continued his informal education through various modes. Sarfaraz Khan who was a veteran socio-political activist of Budgam from 1960’s to 1990’s started his political career with Indian National Congress where he got a chance to work closely with leaders like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. This was the time when Congress had no relevance in Jammu & Kashmir, particularly Kashmir valley, given the massive contribution and influence of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. The Congress cadre were considered to be untouchables those days especially during 1960’s to late 1970’s. In spite of the fact that he had good chances to ally with the National Conference, Khan preferred to remain associated with Congress and introduced it in the remotest villages of Kashmir especially in district Budgam. In association with Syed Mir Qasim and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Sarfaraz Khan created a strong Congress cadre in Beerwah area of Budgam.
Mohammad Sarfaraz Khan was among the few politicians who chose to stay in Kashmir when militancy took over this place during early 1990s. What followed after the onset of militancy is known to everyone. People of Kashmir were greatly affected by the militancy and so were the people living across Beerwah. Khan extended his help to all particularly those who were picked up by the security forces on the mere suspicion of being militant sympathisers. Khan would go to the Army camps and local police stations and plead for the release of young boys who were detained during crackdowns.
Sarfaraz Khan played a key role in the formation of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. Being the founding member, he travelled to every nook & corner of the valley with the then PDP Chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and propagated the agenda of peace and reconciliation. In 2002, he was elected to the erstwhile State Assembly and was made Minister of State (MoS) Hajj & Auqaf in the PDP-Congress Government. In spite of being a senior political leader Sarfaraz Khan was not given a good portfolio, while a young person elected as MLA from Chadoora during the same time was made MoS Power. That mistake committed by PDP leadership is always discussed and debated among political circles in Beerwah even today.
Education was among his top priorities. He implored the then CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to grant Degree College to Beerwah as the area had never seen any higher educational institute. In a public rally arranged at Beerwah where Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was going to announce the sanctioning of Degree College, militants lobbed grenades wherein a young lady was killed and several got injured. Even after this incident the announcement for setting up of the Degree College was made. This has revolutionised the educational system in Beerwah since then. Hundreds of students have graduated from this college which also recently got NAAC accreditation.
Beerwah witnessed tremendous development during the tenure of Sarfaraz Khan as an MLA & Minister of State. Many educational institutes were upgraded, benefits of centrally sponsored schemes like PMGSY & others were extended to this distant area and more importantly, people witnessed an era of peace where anyone who would leave his home in the morning would return back safely in the evening. People of Beerwah remember this great leader more because of his role during the 1990s where everyone fled away leaving people in distress. Sarfaraz Khan left this word on October 15th 2011. May Allah elevate the stature of this great leader in Jannah and allow his followers and his son Nazir Ahmad Khan the Chairman DDC Budgam to carry forward his legacy.
Shakir Mushtaq Parray is a Law Student at Kashmir University. He hails from Chewdara Beerwah