27-Feb-2024  Srinagar booked.net

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Offering Legal Literacy

"A free and public legal education is vital if a society wants justice to be served"

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A young brethren, who are members of a private association, Kashmir Law Circle, are working selflessly to create a society where people are aware of their rights and can access justice without any discrimination by offering door-to-door legal literacy campaigns across the mountainous villages of the Kashmir Valley.

Sajad Farooq Rather, 24, a law practitioner from central Kashmir’s Kangan believes, a free and public legal education is vital if a society wants justice to be served.  

“Justice cannot be delivered without proper legal education. The society at large should have access to legal education so that they can understand the law and hold the government and other powerful institutions accountable,” he says.

“I have personally experienced that a majority of people in our valley lack legal knowledge, they are naïve of government policies, schemes and services. They don’t know about their rights, bestowed under the Indian Constitution,” says Sajad.

Recently, he says, we led a campaign in the Fakir-Gujri area, a small habitation located at the upper reaches of Srinagar city and tucked between the Zabarwan mountain range.

After treading around the area, he spoke to the locals and tried to understand their needs. He was surprised to see how welcoming they were, and how eager they were to help him in his mission.

When he spoke to a group of people about the importance of basic rights. Most of the people were unaware that basic rights were even an issue, let alone that women were the most affected by the lack of knowledge, he says.

“Since then, three awareness programs were organized in a month and we were pleased with the results. We felt that people had gained a better understanding of their rights and we were determined to continue our efforts. We will not stop until we feel that everyone has a good grasp of their rights.”

Even some have no idea of ration stations, subsidies among other basic amenities, he adds.

“Law comes up first in the world and if the boundary of Law runs out, the world will dismantle,” Sajad says. “Verily, in the absence of Legitimacy, the survival becomes creepy. Hence initiatives like Legal Awareness Programs are must.”

Sajad, who has been working as a community organiser for the past few years, has now come up with an idea to bridge this knowledge gap.

He formally shaped the association with four more persons in 2019, and over the period of five years, more lawyers from different parts of the valley have joined the association.

In order to build public awareness, I along with my team visit villages especially to the far-flung areas and counsel people about their rights, he says.

“We have effectively helped many people when it comes to the legal advising, we offer urgent consideration if a new government order is passed and people want to know how does it affect or benefit them,” Sajad tells The Himalayan Post.

“Our aim is to make people believe that law can protect people” he says.

Atif Manzoor, 22 years old law student agrees, his determination to make a difference made him join the group in 2020. He rose through the ranks quickly and today he is the Head of the association.

Chanting hymns of hope, Aatif strongly trusts in the power of judiciary and says this work makes him happy.

“When we use our education to help the society and uplift our people, an unusual joy satiates the soul,” he says. 

“We don’t only aware people about their legal rights but also inform them about the beneficiary schemes initiated by the Government, especially for the poor ones,” Atif says.

“People of the rural areas doesn’t even have an idea of the term Legal Aid,” he adds.

In some cases, people understand a policy well and seek lawyers, we also ensure those lawyers are available, he says. 

Sailing in the same boat, is 20-year-old Ruvaida Shafi from Indira Nagar area of Kashmir’s Capital, Srinagar.

She joined the cohort six-months-ago and foresee her work as a fundamental duty.

“Our organization is one of the most standard organization and has worked efficiently over the past time. Every member is working with immense enthuse and selflessness,” she says.

She considers that legal awareness is the most significant part of any society.

“As Government cannot help people individually, someone has to stand up for them.”

“I think it’s a duty of all,” she says.

Advocating societal commitment and dismayed to see that many of her peers were spending their time at tea corners instead of using their legal knowledge to help those in need, Ruvaida says young lawyers who don’t have much cases to tackle inside courts, must stand up to their duties.

According to a Survey made by ‘WORLD YOUTH COUNCIL’ (WYC) in 2020, almost 70% of the living population of rural areas in India are illiterate and even more up to the highlighted percentage of the people are totally unaware of the rights possessed upon them by law. Due to the lack of legal awareness among them, they face problems like deception, exploitation and deprivation of basic rights and benefits.

Providing knowledge about the law and rights isn’t important for its sake, but its main purpose is to prevent them from being exploited by any illegal means. There is an immediate need to enforce this knowledge from Schooling phase, the Survey reads.