BY MIR IMAAD RAFI
Among the thousands of people who helped in nation-building at the grassroots level was my late grandfather Ghulam Ahmad Mir from Sallar, Pahalgam. An illustrious figure who ushered in a socio-economic revolution among rural farmers with a mission to turn around the fortunes of the underprivileged and change the destiny of his village.
On his 32nd death anniversary, a look at his life, from an excellent administrator, he blossomed into a fighter, a fighter for the cause of his people.
One of the members of J&K’s Constituent Assembly, Ghulam Ahmad Mir fondly remembered as Mir-e-Sallar had the distinction of being one of the Constitution framers for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Assembly sat for 56 days over a period of 5 years and adopted the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution on 19 November 1956. It declared that ‘The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India’.
Excerpts from the Constituent Assembly debates reflect his contribution in framing The Jammu and Kashmir Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, of 1950.
A contemporary of SheIkh Mohammad Abdullah, Girdhari Lal Dogra, and D.P Dhar, he was a man who loved his village. Representing the Dachnipora in the J&K Constituent Assembly, closely the area from Bijbehara towards Pahalgam, he worked on education, economic reforms, and cultural coexistence. After completing his studies at the University of Punjab, Lahore he took interest in increasing the average household income in his native area. Back then government’s public sector efficiency was not significant. The approaches to and overall institutional arrangements were barely enough to recognise potential of apple farming as a core sector of Jammu and Kashmir agriculture.
With the maiden apple orchard in the area, Mir e Sallar pioneered apple farming in Dachnipora. He led a movement for empowering and educating the farmers and spurred a socio-economic revolution when the almond growers faced falling prices, sharply declining yields, and high input costs. During this period, an epidemic occurred that devastated the almond trees in the Dachnipora belt.
He envisioned the gradual conversion of almond farmlands to apple orchards. He not only preached this as a model but also adopted it as his philosophy. Only after his model orchard was successful, it is then he initiated a mass movement of awareness based on scientific facts.
Decades after this, for better utility and post-harvest management practices he united the fruit growers around and sought to establish a union, for which Sirigufwara was made the headquarter. Sirigufwara and Sallar are the twin villages of Dachnipora booming with horticulture activities. The area today is known for landing facility for the apples harvested from the adjoining areas where grading and packing takes place. From here, the apples find their way beyond the Valley of Kashmir through established fruit markets.
He was an ambassador of peace whose idea of politics was compassion, harmony, tolerance, and kindness. He spread peace through his soft and gentle approach toward the young by involving them in community building. He worked to eradicate extremism through spiritual gatherings for which he led majlis and was vocal about his political school of thought.
A Sufi at heart, he was closely associated with establishing the infrastructure of the revered shrine at Khiram. This village of District Anantnag was fondly known as ‘Nabi Saebun’ as it hosts the historic Dargah Hazratbal.
Towards the northern side of Khiram are the villages of Shikargah in Tral Tehsil of Pulwama district. On the eastern side of the mountain of Khiram are the hamlets of Hamnadi and Liwar of Sallar Tehsil.
To its western side lies the village of Sirhama and towards the South, the hamlet of Nowshera is situated. Speaking of its Northern end, the Panar top is the place that receives the first spell of snowfall.
The rain showers from this spot and then spreads to surrounding areas. My grandfather spent a considerable time at Khiram. This meant a lot of interactions and knowing the pulse of the people. He took the people along in affairs related to the development of the shrine and promoted community leadership, seeking the opinion of the young, and accorded them a sense of belongingness.
Era of oneness
He belonged to an era of oneness, where he worked hard to build consciousness of oneness. In 1947, the family ferried forty Hindu families from Srinagar and made them comfortable in Sallar given trouble in wake of the communal escalations in Jammu. In the peak of militancy, being a former MLA he did not migrate but stood with his ideals. Even escaping an assassination bid, he lived among his people. His life brought people from different walks of life and schools of thought close to each other. He was a symbol of inter-faith harmony contributing to an era of oneness.
When Pahalgam’s fragile ecology had not hit the headlines, he along with his friends including foreign dignitaries visiting Pahalgam would hold brainstorming sessions with the locals between the 1950-1970s. He inspired the locals to pay attention to issues affecting the natural environment.
An environmental leader and sustainability advocate, he took it upon himself to create public awareness of ecological conservation. This would include Friday sermons at the Pahalgam Jamia Masjid about the necessity to keep environs clean and the role of individuals in shaping a conscious society.
In summer days at Pahalgam, from interesting anecdotes about him, he hosted annually students from across the country and would invite ideas of the young for environment conservation. He also got an opportunity to serve as the Chairman of the Pahalgam Municipal Committee. Proper town planning and encouraging plantation were his key contributions.
In the education sector, he strengthened the infrastructure and network of primary education in his Assembly segment and took a lead to educate his children at government schools in Sallar.
Focusing on enrolling more girl students in the area, he made it a point to ensure regular Panchayat meetings to assess the graph and deliberate upon it.
Thus Sallar exponentially showed a good literacy rate. Till today, the village stands tall in being one of the most vibrant villages of district Anantnag. The matrix of hygiene, education and healthcare, it takes a lead.
Tail Piece: Looking at the overall scenario of politics, it is devoid of the spirit of public service today. The key players escape the moral responsibility to lead the people.
The trends of competitive politics have forced the leaders to echo their voice, without assessing the reasonability of thought. A leader is a dealer in hope who is effective, and thinks outside the box.
My tribute to my grandfather who taught us to strive hard to accomplish for the greater common good.
Baare duniya main raho gham-zada ya shaad raho
Aisa kuch kar ke chalo yaan ki bahut yaad raho
(Author is a Srinagar based Advocate)
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.