In Depth

‘Bridging the Gap’: Old City campaigners’ novel way to tackle social evils 

Recently a consignemnt of brown sugar worth 70 Crores seized from Kupwara gave away the sense of drug menace in the society. But from arranging classes to engaging experts, a group of youngsters from Old Srinagar are devoting Friday sermons to distance youth from drugs. 

For most of his life, spent behind recurrently restricted Old City residence turned ‘gas chamber’ upon tear/pepper gas assault on street dissent, Mohammad Huzaif would think of tags and labels being given to his hometown. A cultural cradle and erstwhile Vince of East, the place was denigrated over the years for being a resistance hotspot.

After a ‘politicised’ officer in 2010, it was a political turncoat in recent times giving a bad name to the battered community under constant siege, which set Huzaif thinking.

That “bad name” had to do with the drug tag.

It was like giving a dog a bad name and killing him, Huzaif realised when he left home on a study trip to Bangalore. Upon returning with an engineering degree, this Aali Kadal resident decided to flip what he calls a “manufactured notion” about his hometown.

And for that, he began mobilising like-minded people around him.

“The only way to live by an example was to reform those select few youth whose drug indulgence habit was giving a bad name to the whole society,” Huzaif says, as he stares at the panoramic view of Old Srinagar from Aali Kadal bridge.

Once shared, the idea shortly clicked with his peer group carrying the same worldview. And soon, he says, a group of educated youth came together and floated a group called ‘Bridging Gap’, with a motive to address the social evils in their immediate society.

They shortly started operating in the vicinity of Mirwaiz Manzil in Rajouri Kadal. Through an online campaign, the group tried to create inroads in the tech-savvy youth, some of whom were drifting towards drug addiction.

As they started uploading video lectures of specialists and Islamic scholars on their Youtube channel, positive responses poured in.

Among the group donning the campaigner robes are students, engineers, psychologists, poets and teachers.

“Our group aims at taking people out of sectarian conflicts and make them focus on bigger problems like drug menace and other issues,” Huzaif, the group patron, says. “We at ‘Bridging Gap’ assemble people on one platform and motivate them to fight against the social evils.”

During their interactive sessions, life lessons and awareness is being imparted to concerned citizenry, for helping them to prepare a better response to fight the social evils and ill-notions in their localities.

With an active support from Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS) SMHS, Srinagar, the group has already created a difference on the ‘fight against drugs’ front.

They put youth grappling with drug menace in touch with specialists and help them to get ‘normal’ again.

“We invite different specialists from IMHANS,” says Ubaid Bashir, another group member. “After being counselled, the youth engage with experts through a question-answer session.”

The core belief of the group is to impart the importance of the proactive societal approach to fight negativities and evils. They say their past experiences have taught them that issues won’t be addressed, unless taken up for course correction.

“It’s a good initiative,” says Dr. Yasir Rather, Associate Professor, IMHANS. “We’ve been working with them [Bridging Gap] for a couple of months now. We train students, so that they can themselves counsel people suffering from any addiction or social evil.”

Apart from their online campaign, the group also conducts weekly classes on drug de-addiction, says Khalid Hussain, another core member of the group.

The classes are organised at different places in the Old City — even in schools, and Government Medical College, Srinagar.

“We also engage religious scholars who play their part by devoting their Friday sermons to raise the issues of drug addiction and other social evils,” Hussain says. “We’re adopting a multi-front approach to fight the social issues and are glad over the response we are getting.”

With time, the growing response to their campaign is only encouraging the group to expand their welfare work beyond the pockets of the Old City.

“But before that,” says Huzaif, staring at the horizon, beyond the Old City’s heritage structures standing on Jhelum riverbank, “we have to put our home in order first.”


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