Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A chat with leaders of the Scout Movement in Afghanistan

I always had a real soft corner for Afghanistan because of all the trauma it has been through and also for its exceedingly beautiful and warm people. So, when I heard that leaders of the Scout Movement would be in Jaipur, I knew I had to speak to them. Here is the article that ran in Hindustan Times:

Abdul Rauf Saboor stretches his arms wide open and with a gleam in his eyes, he responds, “Thoooo much happy!” It probably is a tempered reaction from someone who has just resumed doing what he loves most after a gap of more than two decades.

Saboor, here for a scouting management workshop, was passionately involved in the Scout Movement in Afghanistan, which began in 1931. Fearing an imminent Russian invasion his work came to a standstill in 1978. The Soviets eventually trooped in a year later. “Because they were not a member of the movement, they gave it the name of policemen,” he says in broken English. “After that because of the war and the Taliban, we could not continue our work,” he adds.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Saboor is rediscovering his lost love. Only that he now has the added responsibility of ensuring that the movement regains its lost stature. Saboor is the director of the Afghan Scouts, under the Ministry of Education, and has a fiercely daunting task on his hands. “We have to start from zero,” he says. “Even the government does not have any idea about the movement,” he adds.

It does not have an office and even the uniforms of the delegates are privately made. But the early signs of its growth are showing. The movement has reached 18 of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces. “We will move out as the security situation improves,” says his friend and scout leader Gul Ahmed Mustafa Pure.

There are presently 22,650 members in the movement, of which an encouraging 7,000 are girls. Their activities mostly include maintaining schools, ensuring that they are kept clean and that drinking water is easily available. But with no support from the government, the leaders are paid just about 2,000 Afghani rupees each month. “The director of the Asia Pacific region visited us in July this and said that they would help us,” says Saboor, who like his friend made a living out of teaching all these years.

The two could pass for any other Afghan. They speak English haltingly and are crazy about Hindi films. “I love Vinod Khanna in Rajput. Each Afghan family has hundreds of Hindi film CDs,” says Saboor. And if you ask him if he likes India, he replies with a stare, “Why not?”

The two have big plans for promoting the movement in their country and building a better Afghanistan. “Boys and girls are equal in our movement,” says Pure. “We now want to use the youngsters in developing Afghanistan into a united and beautiful country,” he adds.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home