By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar: Both security forces and militants have picked him up on suspicion. He has also braved ‘fatwas’ from clerics. Yet the Hindu continues his spiritual journey undeterred in the Kashmir Valley.
Adhik Kadam, 34, belongs to Maharashtra but has chosen to serve Jammu and Kashmir’s children of conflict, particularly the females who lost their fathers to violence in the valley.
Why just the female children?
“In any conflict situation, females become soft targets and are actually the worst sufferers. In order to prevent their social and economic exploitation I have chosen to open homes for female children who became victims because their fathers were killed after joining the militant ranks or because they were targeted by the militants,” said Kadam.
“When I was 19 years old, I visited a Kashmiri Pandit migrant camp in Jammu to see their conditions. There a friend told me the situation was worse in the valley.
“I was told that (north Kashmir) Kupwara district was the worst hit by violence. So I went there. In the beginning there was resistance from everybody.
“I was picked up by the militants because they thought I was a Hindu and could be working for the intelligence agencies. The locals intervened and got me released.
“Then the security forces detained me. They had become suspicious why the militants had released me unharmed,” Kadam recalled.
Today there are 57 children in his Kupwara home, 40 in his Beerwah (Badgam) home, 23 in Mattan (Anantnag) home and 15 in his Barnoi (Jammu) home.
A staff of 21 looks after the children.
Saleema was adopted by Kadam’s Kupwara home when she was just four after her father died in a gunfight with the security forces.
“Her mother had lost mental balance after the husband’s death. We took Saleema into our home. Today she is studying in Fergusson College in Pune where she got admission in science on merits,” Kadam said.
Saleema, who is at present in the Valley, says she would sit for the IAS exams after completing her graduation.
“I will try and get into the IAS so that I come back to Kashmir and serve my people. I know what suffering means although my home did not for a moment make me feel I was an orphan,” she said.
Kadam said initially that some local clerics issued a fatwa against him because he was a Hindu trying to serve Muslim orphans.
“It must have been some mistake. Today everybody gives me love and respect,” he says with a smile.
He does not hesitate from taking donations from anywhere.
According to him, he gets most support from people in Pune and other places in Maharashtra. “I, however, accept anything and everything that is of help to our cause.
“The army and the local police have also been helping me, sometimes with rations and kerosene.
“One individual donor recently gave three million rupees to buy land for the Kupwara home. Slowly everybody has started realizing the relevance of our service.”
In Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra, Kadam’s parents hope he would finally settle down in his native state.
“My parents want me to get married and settle for a routine life, but that is not possible as my spiritual journey has not ended.
“Besides, now I have responsibilities for all these children”, he said, giving away brochures of his “Borderless World Foundation“, the NGO he has been running for over 19 years.