In 2006, a terrorist and his two accomplices barged into the house where orphaned girls were lodged by the NGO Borderless World Foundation in Kupwara, north Kashmir. The employees were shivering in fear as they could recognize the leader of the intruders who was a top-ranked terrorist.
However, strangely, the intruder was questioning everyone about the facilities at the House. While a few inmates who were there had no idea who this person was, those who recognized him feared for their lives.
To their relief, the threesome left soon after.
It was only after about ten months that they realized the purpose of the terrorists' visiting them. A woman caller contacted the manager of Borderless World Foundation with a request that her daughter Rabia (imaginary name) be admitted to the institution.
This woman was the wife of the same terrorists who had intruded into the house.
The woman told the staff at the Borderless World Foundation that her terrorist husband had told her that if he is killed, she must contact the Borderless World Foundation and give their daughter under their care.
Inamtes of a house of the Borderless world Foundation
Today Rabia is 11 years old and is happy while pursuing her education at Borderless World Foundation.
The Kupwara home for the girls orphaned in the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir was the first of the four to be set up by Adhik Kadam, son of a Maharashtra farmer, whose interest in Kashmir as a student of political science took him to working full time for girls orphaned in terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Shazia Khan's father was also a terrorist; he was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir in 2007. As woman in Shazia’s community living in a village in south Kashmir Anantnag district didn’t go out to work back then, her mother had a tough time raising her only child.
Shazia was taken under his wings by Adhik Kadam, and housed in the Kupwara home. Under the aegis of Borderless World Foundation, today Shazia, 19, is studying homeopathy in Maharashtra.
Adhik Kadam with children on Independende Day
Kadam was just 19 and barriers between the people of Kashmir and the rest of India in the form of Article 370 existed when he took a big decision to work for the girls orphaned by the conflict.
Kadam took up the responsibility of taking care of children like Shazia, and Rabia by setting up a happy home for them.
As per the Save the Children international NGO, there are approximately 215,000 orphans in Kashmir and Jammu, and most of them have lost either of their parents in the conflict in the region.
Kadam is the father to more than 200 daughters of terrorists who were slain by forces in encounters. He has taken up the responsibility of their education, helping them get jobs and eventually get married.
Girls' home in Beerwah run by the Borderless World Foundation
Speaking about his work, Kadam told Awaz-the Voice Marathi that he started an organization named 'Borderless World Foundation' in 2004 dedicated to children in J&K. This organization not only provides safe shelter to girls, but also love, support, healthcare, and education.
Adhik was born in 1977 in Srigonda taluka of Ahmednagar (Ahilyanagar) district. His parents Sadashiv and Vimal are farmers. Adhik's father migrated to Pune to give better education opportunities to his son.
In college, Adhik befriended some Kashmiri students. Being a student of Political Science, he developed an interest in developments in Kashmir.
He once participated in a 15-day research tour of Kashmir and preferred to stay on for about four months to understand the situation.
The plight of young widows and orphans who were victims of conflict between India and Pakistan and terrorism made a deep impression on the mind of Adhik.
"During my stay in Kashmir, I saw many people being killed. The biggest victims of this blood-soaked conflict are the children who grow up in this environment.”
Early in his career, Adhik worked as a volunteer for several organizations. During the Kargil War, Adhik worked for the refugees who were forced to leave their homes due to the fighting in the Kargil, Batalik and Drass sectors.
Later he also joined UNICEF's project 'Children affected by armed conflict in Jammu and Kashmir'.
Adhik Kadam with students in a training session
A few months later, Adhik returned to Pune to appear for his final examinations; completed his master's studies in political science and returned to his ‘karamabhoomi - Kashmir.
In 1997, Adhikari surveyed 369 villages in the border district of Kupwara and found that there are about 24,000 orphans and most of them are girls.
He says, “It is difficult for girls to grow well in a male-dominated society. Some organizations are working for the children in Kashmir, but due to security reasons, no one is ready to take responsibility of the girls.’
“After my Kashmir experience, I was hell-bent on doing something to help the girls of Kashmir.”
In 2002, the house of the Borderless World Foundation' was inaugurated by an orphan girl from Kupwara. This organization, which started with four girls, is home to hundreds of girls today. Kadam says, “It was a difficult task to establish an organization in Kashmir.
It was especially difficult to convince the local people. I was often picked up by the terrorists who thought that I had some sinister plan up my sleeves.
Over the past 15 years, terrorists have abducted Adhik 19 times but released him safely after verifying his actions.
Elaborating further, he says, “My security is not possible without the help of the local people. The local people provided me with security along with financial help. Generosity abounds in Kashmir. Unfortunately, people rarely try to experience it.
He adds, "Once you see so much terror and pain, the fear of death disappears. You become 'immune' to such experiences!"
Adhik Kadam with his children in Kashmir
Unmindful of this Adhik continued his work.
Razia Malik, 16, an inmate of the Borderless Foundation House says, “I have never been so happy. After my mother's second marriage, I was sent to a relative's house and then after a few days to another relative's house, so I could not concentrate on my studies. I have never been to my mother's new home, but she regularly visits me at my new home."
Razia's father was a terrorist. "I feel very bad about this," she says.
As word about the 'Borderless World Foundation' spread throughout the valley, more volunteers and financial aid began pouring in. He built similar houses in Anantnag, Beerwah, and Jammu and expanded the institution. About 200 girls are currently being cared for in four homes of the Borderless World Foundation. All these girls have lost their parents in the encounters.
These houses are equipped with computers and have manicured lawns for girls to play.
Girls in a photography class at the center run by Borderless World Foundation
Adhik has also provided vocational training to the girls to prepare them for life ahead. Some of these girls now also run a business center next to their house in Kupwara.
Girls make sanitary napkins, embroidered clothes, and do fabric-painting, etc. in this development center called 'Raah-e-Niswan' (Women's Road). Art skills like needlework, weaving, various computer courses, photography, etc. are taught in the center started at Bandipora and Baramulla.
Many of these girls have now become entrepreneurs.
Adhik is getting awards for his work and business acumen. The Kupwara one is the only business center for women in the entire of Kashmir.
Eight to ten girls from Borderless World Foundation' are currently pursuing higher education in different states of India, while some girls are doing business at the local level. More says, “It is difficult to describe the bond with these girls in words.
Adhik Kadam says, “I have washed the clothes of these girls, and combed their hair. I have become his friend, brother, and teacher. When a girl got married, I felt that now I have also become her father.”
Borderless World Foundation has educated and empowered over 700 girls in the Kashmir Valley in the last five years. Kadam says, “I think adopting 200 orphan girls will not solve the problem of Kashmir completely. I believe that these girls will one day raise boys and girls with such good thoughts. It's a slow process, but it had to start somewhere."
On the larger purpose of his campaign, Adhik says,“When a girl becomes educated and financially stable, and gets married and has a family, she influences the whole family through her values and ideology. Thus it supports positive community development and a national value system. These are the 'seeds' I am sowing to establish peace!"
The foundation organizes screening and observation camps for women to detect diseases like cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. More than 500 medical camps have been organized in the last 20 years.
Adhik has tried to help 1,270 victims of pellet injuries. “If such youths are not taken care of properly, then they will lose their eyesight forever.”
His organization arranged a team of 13 ophthalmologists from Mumbai and South India to perform complex surgeries on the youth. The NGO also assisted more than 450 villages during natural calamities.
The Borderless Foundation has stationed 21 ambulances that it runs with the help of the Indian Army. This initiative takes care of the health of more than 3 lakh people across 10 districts.
Kadam’s NGO runs ‘Udaan Shala' a rehabilitation school for differently-abled people at Drugmulla in Kupwara district. The school was started in 2010 by the Indian Army and handed over to 'Borderless World Foundation nine years later.
Adhik has received the 'Outstanding Annual Report' award (2009) for transparency and best documentation practices in the NGO sector in India. Also, 'The Mother Teresa Award (2010), 'The Youth Icon Award (2011) by 'Maharashtra Times', 'The Yuvonmesh Award by 'The Indradhanu Foundation', 'The Spirit of Master Award (2012), The ICA Award, and the Savitri Samman Award (2016), 'NBC' Award (2017), 'Humanity-Hero' Award (2020), etc.