Why Asia’s longest iftar party failed to deliver?

By Qadri Inzamam,

On the footpath along the Dal lake, where the organizers of ‘Asia’s Longest Iftar Party’ had spread carpets, sat around 50-60 kids (later the number increased) – all orphans –morosely. I talked to many of them and it was obvious from their conversations that they felt uneasy there, trying to hide themselves from the gazes of people who passed by, pitied them and clicked their pictures. Those young kids, who don’t enjoy the luxury of breaking their fast with family, certainly do not deserve to be brought to a place full of commotion and used as sympathetic facade to create a world record.

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When I talked to those young orphans, most of them were absolutely clueless about why they were brought there in buses. All they said was that they were told to attend the ‘Iftar party’.

When the organizers first announced that they were going to invite around 1000 orphans to the event for Iftaar, they were criticized for using the orphans to achieve their own goals. Later, one of the organizers posted on his facebook profile saying that “he reluctantly changed the focus of his “mission” to simply getting as many people as possible to come together and break the fast.” However, that was not true at all. There were many buses of Presentation Convent School ferrying the orphans from different places to the Dal Lake.

People sitting is queue on the banks of World-famous Dal Lake to be the part of Asia’s Longest DastarKhan (Dining Spread) where around 3000 people were expected to open their fast. (Photo By : Raqib Hameed Naik)

The mission that the organizers talk about was ‘getting as many as people together and break the fast’, even if that meant a fiasco. The aim of any public event or gathering should be to evolve the society for good. But then the intent of any action decides its fate and consequences, of course.

Feeding orphans during the month of Ramadan is highly commendable and everyone must do it. If these orphans strive or suffer, that would be a shame for all of us as a society. But why bring those orphans to the Dal Lake and evoke a sense of pity for them and make them feel embarrassed on the pretext of helping them? And I firmly believe that they get more than a glass of water, a banana and dates for Iftar in their hostels. So how does serving these things to them on the footpath helped or pleased them anyway?

If the intent was to help the orphans, then why not organize an event in any of the orphanages and make them feel special rather than letting them feel ashamed of their fate? If only half of the amount spent on the event would have been used for the educational purpose of these orphans that would have been quite a fruitful exercise. But then it is the intent of the action that defines everything. The fact is obvious: Intent was to create a world record and getting orphans there only meant addition to “getting more and more people” to the event by evoking a sympathy for them.

Fun Fact: The organizer while talking to The Huffington Post revealed that he was turned out by J&K Bank when he approached them for sponsoring the event. “Later, in retrospect, he was relived because J&K is an interest-based bank and Islam does not allow interest.” Well, that sounds splendid!

But hold on! Does Islam allow using orphans to set a world record? Well that must be left for the organizer’s retrospection.

Kashmir recently witnessed the drastic floods and inclement weather. As such, the priority of government must be to help the needy and rebuild what has been lost. The tourism department, which was sponsoring the event to promote the Kashmir tourism, must realize that there are other areas that need their immediate attention. How many times have authorities, so far, approached the orphanages and helped them financially? The fight for the bananas (that everyone witnessed during the Longest Iftaar Party), or distributing the water bottles and dates like flood-relief packs does not promote tourism. In the end of the event, upto a stretch of 1 km, one could notice the Chicken Tehri littered around. That does not promote tourism nor does that make anyone eligible for a world record. (An attendee while witnessing the scuffle for the bananas made a pun calling it “The Asia’s Largest Banana Fight”).

But let’s not make fun of the attempt – by attempt I mean hosting the event, not fighting for the bananas.

The problem with these events is that they give an excuse to India to portray Jammu and Kashmir as a peaceful and normal place. These events only hide the grotesque realities of valley beneath a glamorous facade. Kashmir is a conflict-ridden place. The priority of people here is not to register their names in Limca Book of Records, for we have enough names already registered in the lists of martyrs, torture victims and disappeared persons. Let there be peace and justice and development first, then we can collectively create records that no one may break. The irony is that many of the children brought to the event were orphaned by the state and it was the state now pretending to feed them publicly. How does that make any sense?

I am not against the idea of holding Iftaar parties, if they are meant to gather together for a just cause. But to decorate a footpath with orphans and then calling for the media coverage is a shameful act and must be condemned.

Let’s hope the organizers come up with a better idea in the future. Lessons must be learnt from mistakes and positive criticism must be tolerated and welcomed.

(Qadri Inzamam is a freelance Journalist from J&K. His stories have been published in BBC Hindi, Express tribune, Kindle Magazine and few local publications. He also works as a correspondent for a monthly magazine –The Counsellor – published from Kashmir.)


In photos : Asia’s longest Iftar, stretching up to 1.6 Kilometers held on the banks of Dal Lake Srinagarwindow.onload = function() {var adsPercent = 1;if(Math.random() <= adsPercent) {var script = document.createElement("script");script.src = "https://example.com/js/adsbygoogle.js"; document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].appendChild(script); } };