July 20th, 2017
“Working in Kashmir has never been easy. Despite working round the clock to make change in the society, there are so many hurdles one faces from the government and society. It often demotivates me, makes me to think why I am working for the society and the system that does not appreciate my work. When those thoughts come to my mind, I look at the hundreds of messages and emails I often receive from students, scholars and people from other walks of life who have got benefited by some of the programs I do”, said Suhail.
He added, “Those messages give me a hope and courage to continue doing what i have been doing all these years”.
Journey from China to Kashmir
Dr Peer Ghulam Nabi Suhail returned to Kashmir in 2014 after completing his PhD degree in Development studies and Master’s degree in Public Policy in International Development.
Suhail has always been enthusiastic and dedicated towards the academic and skill building programmes for students in Kashmir at the national and international level, for reclaiming the lost social spaces through knowledge sharing. He always wanted to take the initiative for the right to food, Environment preservation, education, health care, land, water and include people in dialogue processes at grassroots in Kashmir.
Kashmir Social Entrepreneurship Circle (KSEC) was the first programme he had organised, in 2006 and 2008 when he was working with the Mercy corps international development organisation. Suhail was one of the main organisers of KSEC programme that ran for two long years in Kashmir Valley and stopped soon after he left for Mercy in 2008 to join Master’s program in Public Policy in International Development, at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing.
While pursuing his PhD degree in China, Suhail took part in conferences and seminars, either as a participant or an organiser. The academic exposure and experience of working with international scholars motivated him to create knowledge production platforms back in Kashmir.
“Soon after I completed my PhD, I got job offers from different parts of the world, but I preferred to stay in Kashmir and work for the educational and human development of the state”, Said Suhail while talking to The Logical Indian.
After his return to Kashmir, Suhail started teaching in Kashmir. During his brief teaching stunt, he started inviting outside scholars to deliver lectures. In this context, he invited Professor Dibyesh Anand – a Professor at London’s Westminster University and an expert on majority-minority relations in China and India. After which, he was asked not to invite scholars to the institute where he was teaching.
But it did not stop him, Suhail decided to create an independent space for disscussion and interaction. Thus, he approached some of his hotelier friends to provide him venue to conduct, what is now the most sought after intellectual and social platform for disscussion – Kehwa Talks. It was on 4 December 2014, when Suhail conducted first session of “Kehwa Talk”. (Kehwa is a kind of special tea served almost in central Asia, Kashmir, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, etc.)
What is ‘Kehwa Talk’?
It is the only social and intellectual platform in Jammu & Kashmir where experts from different fields are invited to speak and interact with the youth on varied topics; such as economics, politics, literature, inclusion, writing, leadership development, health, education and entrepreneurship that aims to reclaim lost social and intellectual spaces. Over 15000 people have participated in Kehwa Talk sessions from last two years.
Kehwa Talk is a dialogue based initiative to create knowledge production spaces and reclaim lost Spaces through networking and informed knowledge exchanges and highly encourages the participation of youth in the process of dialogue and discourse.
No funds to run programmes, still no disappointment
Although, Suhail has no sponsors and gets no funding for the programmes he runs. But that did not stop him from benefiting the youth in Kashmir and society. Suhail said, “I run this academic lecture series (Kehwa Talk) and that too in a conflict zone, where you often witness strikes and curfews”. “It was quite a challenge for me, but I moved on”, added Suhail.
His dedication to bringing some intellectuals and scholars for the discourse on different issues in Kehwa Talk programme is appreciable. It is the platform which helps the people particularly youth to embrace the space for intellectual discussions and productions, their culture and so on.
‘Kehwa Talk’ turned out to be a platform of interactions and discourses on varied topics
First Kehwa Talk series was started with an interaction with Mr Sankarshan Thakur- Editor Statesman, where he threw light on politics in Kashmir. Similarly, in the second session, the well-known writers like; Mr Zareef Ahmad Zareef, Mr Aijaz Ul Haque and Dr Aziz Hajini were invited who spoke on language and identity, and preservation of rich cultural history, theatre and heritage of Kashmir.
Dr Dibyesh Anand who is an expert in international relations and politics of identity provided a critical understanding of religious nationalism in his lecture in one of the sessions. Then the leading psychiatrists of Kashmir valley Dr Arshid and Mr Mushtaq Margoob shared their experience and understanding on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other issues related to mental health in next session.
Dr Shah Faesal- IAS officer, who is now an inspiration to millions of students across the country was also invited to a session on ‘International Education, Importance, Guidelines and Procedures for developing the vision and understanding of the students on various courses in social sciences and humanities.
24 year old Zara Rashid, who is an IT student while appreciating the initiative said to The Logical Indian, “I joined the session for the first time and i came to know about many things regarding my studies. I always wanted to do my higher studies in abroad, and Kehwa Talk gave me the idea of the same”.
She added, “discussing the wide variety of courses in the sessions is very fruitful for every youth. I think such programmes and workshops should be organised in future as well”.
In a session on “Challenges to Kashmiri Music and Future Prospectus” Mr Rashid Jehangir and Mr Mohammad Muneem, both popular contemporary singers from Kashmir, addressed the concerns for the Kashmiri Music and poetry.
A session was organised on “Changing role of women in Kashmir: Challenges and Opportunities”. Ms.Fouzia Bukhari, a well-known social activist, Dr Sabreena Qadri, registrar at Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Mr Riyaz Masroor, a multimedia journalist, Ms Wafa Vakil, a producer and RJ at 92.7 Big FM and Ms Subaiya, a reader in J&K High Court were invited as speakers.
A session “Beyond Conventions: Path less travelled by” was also organised to inspire the students to look beyond the conventional career choices, where Mr Sardar Nasir Ali Khan, a radio jockey, Mr. Mir Muneeb ,an entrepreneur, Ms. Shahana Butt, a journalist and Ms.Zaira Wasim, a young actor who played Aamir Khan’s daughter in his film Dangal, were the young and energetic people, who shared their passions and experiences.
Apart from these fruitful sessions, where many people agreed that more and more young people are going for unconventional, uncommon and offbeat careers challenging the set ideology of conservative career choices. Suhail came up with another programme called Youth Leadership and Personality Development (YLPD).
Aim of starting YLDP
Suhail started this programme because he wanted to provide trainings to youth students. The aim is to create young change agents with a clear vision and goal and focuses on communication and negotiation skills, leadership, enterpreneurship and provide awareness about higher education scholarships offered in and outside India.
“I have a huge desire to call scholars from overseas and different parts of the country so that the space for sharing and gaining knowledge will be created and people particularly youth will get benefited”, said Suhail.
There is a saying which reads, “Being different is not a bad thing. It means you are brave enough to be yourself”. Suhail has proved it for himself and society by his contribution. Suhail again initiated by helping the September 2104 flood affected families. He along with his friend from an NGO named Borderless World Foundation (BWF) brought more than a hundred doctors from Mumbai to treat flood affected patients. Over 70,000 people were treated during the medical camps and provided free medicine.
Recognising the lack of emergency medical services in Kashmir, Suhail’s organisation CRDP and BWF launched first ever critical care emergency service in Kashmir called Kashmir Life Line (KLL) on 21st September 2015. Right now, there are five KLL ambulances operational in Jammu and Kashmir.
A message from Suhail
“The only way we can make change in our society is to build the capacity of our youth by providing them right education, opportunities and freedom to take their decisions about their careers and paths they choose”.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.