Last week, when the Jammu-Srinagar highway was closed for traffic following heavy snowfall which triggered landslides at few places along the road, a group of friends was busy helping stranded passengers and serving them meals at Qazigund in South Kashmir.
Younis Rasheed, who is a member of Rahaat, a local trust in Qazigund, said they started the initiative of helping stranded passengers back in 2017, when the 270 km long highway remained closed for more than a week.
The group remains at the forefront to help people in case of highway closure or any untoward situation in Qazigund—known as a gateway to Kashmir.
“Although the locals living along the road would help some commuters, that lacked proper management to help and serve more people,” Younis said.
Younis said he along with a few friends initially provided food and shelter to stranded passengers and then collected some funds in the village for the purpose.
“Initially we came up with the idea of a community kitchen (lunger) to provide free food to people. Then we registered it as a trust, so that locals can also contribute or donate.
“We are getting positive support from the people,” he added.
The 25-year-old said many people have joined the group and they often assist the passengers, as the road is prone to landslides and frequent closures.
“Our volunteers would cover 10-20 kilometers from Qazigund to Mir Bazar to provide daily meals like milk and biscuits to needy stranded passengers,” he said.
President and member of the trust, Ishrat Rasheed said during the winter months the highway often faces closures which leaves vehicles stranded.
“Over the past several years, we rescued many stranded people and provided them free meals,” he said.
Following the fresh snowfall, they provided free food and accommodation to dozens of stranded tourists and are winning hearts by their selfless service.“It is the best way to serve humanity irrespective of any difference.”
Ishrat, also known as Lally Khan said apart from helping people on the highway, they also assisted locals during Covid-19.
“During the recent snowfall, 27 tourists stayed in my house. In our area, there are no hotels and that is why we felt we shoulder this responsibility to assist everyone,” he said.
“We are mostly supported by locals, who help and donate to us on a monthly basis,” he said.
Apart from helping people on the highway, they also help by providing marriage assistance to poor families. They have so far assisted more than 50 families in need.
As the highway witnesses road accidents and landslides, the group is planning to buy a critical care ambulance which can be used during emergency situations to save previous lives.