Malick Asghar Hashmi/New Delhi
Inspired by the idea of a library village in England and Maharashtra, a Kashmiri youth Sirajuddin Khan has set up libraries in more than 22 houses in his native village Aargam in north Kashmir’s Bandipore district. The village is home to some 500 people and has some 100 houses
Sirajuddin Khan has grown up at Pune's Sarhad Foundation, an NGO run by Sanjay Nahar to support the education of Kashmiri boys and girls – many of whom are victims of terrorism.
Speaking with Awaz-the Voice at the stall of Sarhad Foundation in the ongoing World Book Fair in New Delhi, Sirajuddin said, "Books open your eyes. Knowledge lets you know where you stand and what you can do”.
Sirajuddin, who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. degree in History, says that the idea of a 'Library Village' is from England. When he started following this idea on the ground, Covid-pandemic struck the world.
After some time, he came to know that a 'village library' has been opened in the village Bellar of Maharashtra. This was opened with the help of the state government.
Sirajuddin’s project in his native village has been supported by the National Book Trust of India (NBT) and the Jammu and Kashmir government.
As a result in the last two months, he has established libraries in more than 22 of 100 houses in Aragam.
Sirajuddin's idea behind 'Har Ghar Library' is that every family should have a collection of books on a particular subject so that people the villagers can visit each other for information and exchange of ideas and even books.
He says this move will not only increase the unity of the villagers but also help unite them in finding solutions to their common problems as they live close to the Line of control.
Sirajuddin's campaign clubbed with that of 26-year-old Mubashir Mushtaq of Helmatpora, a village of neighbouring Kupwara has brought about a change in the thinking of the youth and giving them food for thought and made them focus on their future.
Sirajuddin says that the government is not in a position to provide jobs to all and therefore there is a need for self-help. He has been following this mantra.
With the help of the Sarhad Foundation, he has recently taught English, computers, etc. to 25 girls from villages near the LoC at the foundation's headquarters in Pune. These girls attended the Train the trainer programme and would help others once they are back home.
He said after finishing his campaign of having a library in each house of his village, he plans to work on other villages to turn Kashmir into a “Valley of Knowledge.”
He also plans to get colourful pictures of eminent national personalities including from Jammu and Kashmir pasted on the walls of schools and colleges to increase public awakening about the real heroes.
On the other hand, Mubashir Mushtaq’s campaign in Helmatpora was triggered by his desperation of finding something to read during the Covid-19 lockdown. He had to come to Srinagar, 100 km away from it, and that made him realize the importance of having a library at home.
Mubashir, with the help of his friends and relatives who donated books set up a library in the village. He collected about 2000 books and opened a library in a 14 x 10 meters room in his house. The library also has fiction and self-help books and also magazines that help in the preparation for competitive examinations like UPSC, NEET, etc.
Mubashir told the media that when he first told his family about opening a library, everyone laughed at him. However, today all members of his family are his partners.
His house always has a beeline of book lovers in the morning and evening for making use of 'Let's Talk Library.'
He says that most of the readers pick Rich Daddy Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, the world bestseller that explains the mantra of becoming rich.
"Most of the customers for these books are college students and school children," says Sheikh Ejaz Ahmed, owner of Gulshan Books, a leading bookseller in the Valley.