Rita Farhat Mukand
Mohammad Masroor Alam’s life took him through a different route in Gujarat in 2001 when he was enrolled for a computer course and the horrific Bhuj Earthquake shook the state on 26 January at 08:46 in the morning killing 20,023 people, injuring about 167,000 while bringing about 340,000 buildings down to rubble.
As a young man, he was shaken by the massive devastation. Stirred by the voluminous urgent need for assisting hands, he rose out of compassion and got involved with a team of people to help the people ravaged by the wreckage. The victims were people from all communities - Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc. living in makeshift tents.
They all received food, utensils, clothes, blankets, and many other provisions through the efforts of Masroor Alam and all the others in the busy team.
A group wedding organised by Masroor Alam's group
In a turbulent world of survival of the fittest where each looks for their own, it’s hard to find people like Masroor Alam.
The 34-year-old social activist is the son of Md Rakimuddin and Najrun Nisha of Chhowsia, in the Uttar Dinajpur district in Islampur, West Bengal. He has five brothers and one sister and his parent’s deep values on humanity instilled an indelible root of compassion in him.
He held degrees of M.A. and LLB at the time of being in Gujarat to study computers at the time of the earthquake.
Md Masroor Alam shared, “It felt good not only to give and relieve them from their sufferings but also add a blanket of warmth to our hearts, and we also felt better and happier when we did good deeds for them.”
Victims of cylinder blast
The urge to start a proper Non-Government Organization to help the needy started churning in his heart. He said, “I saw people using NGOs for their benefits, just to meet their own needs without really helping the deprived people, I saw it as a sort of corruption in one way. I wanted to help the people desperately crying for help because I noticed they were overlooked many times. I also believe we must help all people equally, not looking at religion, caste, or race."
In 2007, Md Masroor Alam became the President of the All India Raza Committee. They held a massive Blood Donation Camp in 2007 during April with a total of 152 blood donation camps and the work involved was stupendous.
During the time of the floods that engulfed the Kishanganj district, he and the team reached out to 26 villages serving them cooked hot khichdi (rice and lentils porridge) as well as giving them lentils, rice salt, wheat flour, sugar, tea leaves and other commodities.
Md Masroor Alam with members of his group at a health camp
It was a tenuous hard labour pushing through swarming waterlogged regions which threatened to sweep away anyone at a moment. The grateful victims called them messengers of good tidings. In another instance, during a gas cylinder blast in the Islampur area, where 37 families were burnt and two men were struggling to live, Masroor Alam and the crew gave them all the help and provided their requirements during that difficult time.
One particular defining time for Md Masroor Alam was working with politicians and understanding how much help they too give during times of disaster. At that time, they helped people to get their ration cards and gifted warm blankets and food to members of some caste communities.
Sometimes, a village would suddenly catch on fire either due to dry twigs or some sudden accident and the group would rush to those areas to help with food, plates, utensils, glasses, and even pressure cookers as some families had their entire homes burnt to ashes.
Masroor Alam (In white Kurta-Pajyama) with a volunteer
The time of COVID-19 pandemic heightened food insecurity in India, leading to a hunger crisis affecting extensive rural regions and certain urban areas with job losses and reduced incomes. Activists monitoring coronavirus-related fatalities have reported that over 300 individuals have lost their lives due to starvation, exhaustion, and accidents apart from dying from the pandemic.
During this time, Md Masroor Alam and the team visited the people in the village and advised them to stay indoors, taught them about masking and sanitation, and gave food to over 8000 families, mostly labourers and truck drivers.
Another help they rendered in 2014 was organising and funding ten poor Muslim girls’ mass weddings and in 2015, they assisted six girls, which was a big financial relief for their parents.
Masroor Alam expressed that ever since he was a child, he was deeply concerned about the suffering of others and always wanted to do something significant to make a difference.
While he was studying computers in Gujarat, after the Bhuj Earthquake, his life was steered in a new direction and he started to get more deeply involved in helping all people of all communities during times of distress giving dal, rice, atta, tea leaves, sugar and many such food commodities during famines and earthquakes as well.
Feeding those in need
The beautiful aspect of Md Masroor Alam’s life and help is his along with the team’s outreach to all people of all communities without ever thinking of the differences of religion or caste. This is the language of humanity.
All India Raza Committee runs an old people’s home where the very poor beggars, sick, and old people can live in dignity. Most of them are rescued from the grips of begging out on pavements, streets, and near garbage dumps.
He says that Islampur is still an impoverished region, underdeveloped and there are many poor people there. During the winter, it is very cold and the NGO started to give warm clothes and blankets to the poor families.
Masroor Alam (in the center) holding a meeting with his volunteers
As the president of All India Raza Committee which is a Sunni Muslim Islamist group based in Maharashtra, India formed in 1978 by Alhaj Mohammed Saeed Noori, Md Masroor has reached out to help people in all parts of India such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, and many other states.
Inspired by the Holy Quran which says in Surah 17:70, “Because everyone is created by God Almighty, the Maker of all, humans must treat one another with full honour, respect, and loving-kindness.” In another ayat, it is written, “Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness.”
Md Masroor Alam is inspired by this one line, “Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.”— Maya Angelou. This is the philosophy by which he lives and those waves resound loudly wherever he goes sending out a good message.
Rita Farhat Mukand is an independent writer in West Bengal