A warrior for social justice

He was passionate about restoring water-bodies and saving the environment of the Valley
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Kashmir is an acknowledged paradise on Earth. Every year lacs of tourists visit the valley to enjoy  the beauty  of  nature. Kashmiris  are  also known for their  hospitality. The  people  living  in  paradise  are  also famed for their unique  of qualities love and affection for other regions and religions.

During the period of turmoil we have  witnessed number  of  such  incidents  where  the people of Valley have offered  food  and  shelter  for  tourists  and Yatris, even shared the milk and biscuit meant for their children during shutdown or Covid period lockdown - this we call Kashmiri culture.

The soil has given birth not only to prominent Sufi Saints but many eminent personalities and activists of valley have got recognition for their excellent work across country. Their contribution in social sector is appreciable and even after their death people can’t forget their selfless services for poor and needy.

Syed Nassarullah Shah was a towering personality of J&K who has contributed not only in social sector but during his service in Judiciary as well, after the retirement from District Court Srinagar as Senior Administrative Officer in the year 2007. 

Syed Nassarullah Shah turned to be a voice for voiceless. Usually after retirement, pensioners prefer to stay home and avoid to meet public, but the life of Syed Nassarullah was different.

He, with some other retired officials, decided to go for social service and registered an NGO under the name and style of “J&K Peoples Forum”. After one year, he with Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat registered a Trust, J&K RTI Movement and then fought a long battle for the implementation of RTI Act in the erstwhile State of J&K.

There was no aid or financial assistance from Government or any private agency but the activists managed to bear the office expenditure either by using their skill or by paying from their monthly pension.

Under the supervision of Syed Nassarullah Shah J&K Peoples Forum and J&K RTI movement filed number of Public Interest Litigation (PILs) before Hon’ble High Court of J&K these litigations were purely for public cause and drafted by Late Nassarullah. He guided the young legal team especially Advocate Shafkat Nazir, Advocate Nadeem Qadri and Advocate Shabir Ahmad Bhat of J&K High Court.

Syed Nassarullah was passionate to restore water-bodies and to save environment of the Valley. He suggested many organisations to work under a joint strategy, after hectic  deliberations with like-minded groups.

He succeeded to form a group under the supervision of  Faiz Bakshi (a well known environmentalist), namely Environmental Policy Group (EPG), an amalgam of 12 Civil Society Groups.

The group is active for protection of forest and restoration of wet-ands and Water-bodies. The group also filed many  Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in the High Court of J&K under the supervision of  Syed Nassarullah Shah.

Syed Nassarullah used to organise seminars, interactive sessions for students, senior citizens, disable persons, and educate them about their rights, and also inform them about centrally sponsored schemes. He was a diabetic and had other ailments too, but till his last breath he never was seen sitting idle by anybody.

Always helped people and provided free legal aid for widows, orphans and poor. He used to follow a roster to visit all civil society offices and help them to file compliance reports in courts and other fora. His friends often used to visit his private office for the redress of their personal problems and regarding their cases in different courts.

Syed Nassarullah filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court about backdoor appointments in High Court and Subordinate Courts. The Apex Court admitted the PIL and issued a notice to High Court of J&K. Where ever he used to go, people always used to follow him for his valuable suggestions, and guidance.

When his doctor suggested him dialysis twice a week, even then he attended seminar on Fossil Park Khanmoh and attended other interactive sessions with senior citizens and activists. This was his dedication and passion. There are some prominent activists of J&K who have been guided by Syed Nassarullah, during their social services, what they feel after the sudden depart of Syed Nassarullah Shah.

Faiz Bakshi, Convenor Environmental Policy Group (EPG) records his remarks as: I  have known  Syed  Nassarullah  Shah  from  my practising days at  Srinagar District Court. He was an activist fighting for  the  causes of Judicial employees.

Later I found him taking-up social issues at various levels of administration, and through (PILs). Nassarullah Sahab was an impressive speaker and had mastered in drafting Petitions presented in High Court and the Supreme Court.

He left a mark as a Social, RTI and Environmental Activist by being actively associated with various organisations as a founder, guide, and a mentor. He was co-founder, Trustee and Governing Council Member of Environmental Policy Group (EPG) and played an unforgettable role in its long struggle and legal battle for conservation of our fast depleting natural resources. His passing away has left a vacuum which is actually difficult to fill.

Peerzada Fayaz, National Advisor, Tour Operators Association, Former  President, Travel Agents Association of Kmr.(TAAK) says: I am grateful to Almighty Allah (swt) to have  been given a  chance  to be associated with Late Syed Nassarullah Sahab who exemplified  ways to  handle  challenges that we face in day-to-day life, and  how life makes  sense  by  nourishing  human relations. He fought  it  out  bravely, smiling and superbly.

Nassarullah Sahab’s way of looking at problems and taking out workable solutions had a lifetime experience and an understanding of Human Psychology at its back. His return to his Lord (swt) was graceful, peaceful, and least burdensome on everyone around him. His absence has left a permanent void in my life as a teacher, advisor and a guide.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Chairman J&K RTI Movement, expresses hi feelings in the words:  Syed Nassarullah was a multifaceted personality. He was not only a geal advisor for many individuals and organisations doing most  of the work free of cost, but  was a great  campaigner for  good governance,  environment  as  well. 

When  the  day  care  centre (Ahata e Waqar) for senior citizens was set up at Chanapora around 2018, he would travel almost 10 kms daily to reach that place.

He was the man behind setting up that centre. He was a fighter who not only fought for the rights of senior citizens but for youth and women as well, by using RTI as a tool and then using that information to file Public Interest Litigations (PILs).

He has been a great supporter for aggrieved farmers of Srinagar Ring Road and he was the person who drafted most of the land acquisition petitions filed before J&K High Court. I have missed a guide, teacher and a dear friend. I miss him every day and every second.

Dr Touseef Bhatt, Chairman Kashmir Concern, says: There are heroes and  then there are legends. Heroes  get remembered but legends  never die. When  we talk about the legacy of legends, there was none other than Syed Nassarullah who survives forever as truth doesn’t dies.

Advocate Shafqat Nazir, J&K High Court remembers Nasrullah Sahab in the words:  A  gentle  man, repository  of  knowledge  and  history,   an activist.  Man of integrity and legal acumen. 

Syed Nassarullah Sahab was a man par excellent. My association with him  started  only  in  the  year  2016  but  the  bond  we  created during  this period  appeared  to  be  everlasting, but  everlasting nothing  is.   Alas!  His  passing  away is  a  personal  loss  to me, besides being a loss to society  at  large.  May  he  rest  in  peace.  Aameen.

On 14th of August, Nassarullah Sahab’s condition deteriorated and he was admitted in SKIMS. With oxygen support he survived for ten days but on 25th of Aug his condition worsened. I, along with Faiz Bakshi visited the hospital.

He said a few words, valuable and memorable. “My death is certain but no one should feel my absence in any group or forum. Pursue my cases which are pending in any Court of Law, work for the welfare of poor,  Save environment, save water-bodies and restore the glory of this paradise.”

After few hours this legal luminary and a great activist said good-bye to this transient world. May Allah bless his soul.  Aameen 

The author is a Senior Journalist and Human Rights Activist

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.

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