Srinagar: Last of the grand old men of Jammu and Kashmir, Mian Bashir Ahmad Larvi, who passed away on Saturday, has taken away with him a large part of Kashmir’s tumultuous history in which he played an epochal role.
Baba Sahib, as he was popularly known, died at the ripe age of 98. Till his very end, he continued to inspire members of different communities and religions.
The tribal Gujjars and Bakarwals (Goat herds) took pride in saying that the Baba Sahib belonged to their community while Kashmiris and Dogras of the Jammu division said he was the eldest of their communities as well whose love transcended communities and religions.
Hardly has anyone in Kashmir’s recent history had the rare quality of having remained in politics without losing his respect of being a religious and spiritual leader.
He remained the most powerful tribal leader till his very end. He gave up politics nearly two decades ago, but he never lost sight of political developments in the country and abroad.
Despite his son, Mian Altaf Ahmad being a senior leader of the National Conference (NC), Baba Sahib’s respect has cut across political loyalties. He remained a referral point in Kashmir’s history for all those who studied his life.
He has penned down an interesting and insightful record of religious, social and political events of J&K in his book which is also the story of his personal life.
Those who knew him well have heard from him endless stories of iconic figures of the sub-continent which include Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Hafeez Jallandari, the poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Meera Behan, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Abdul Gaffar Khan, the frontier Gandhi and dozens of others.
Not only did he rub shoulders with these people, but he had developed a personal relationship with them, a privilege perhaps unique to him alone in Kashmir.
He was the most benevolent host one would ever come across.
The ‘Langar’ (Free Kitchen) at Wangat village in north Kashmir Ganderbal district, which is the ancestral seat of the Mian family, hosts scores of guests daily.
The guests at Baba Nagri, as the ancestral residence of the Mians is now called, include tribals from far off places, like Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban and even devotees from abroad, who come to pay obeisance at the shrine of Baba Zi Sahib, the grand father of Mian Bashir Ahmad.
The poor and the needy are served the same food at the Baba Nagri Langar as the rich and the powerful.
Mian Bashir Ahmad was known for his generosity and charity. Those close to him vouch that he has never counted money when he gave it to the needy.
“He would put his hand in his pocket and draw out whatever amount he could. He never gave the onlooker the chance to guess what he gave away as charity”, said one of his personal assistants at Baba Nagri.
Nearly 50,000 people from different parts of J&K and elsewhere attended his funeral.
Wailing and weeping his devotees, friends and family members bid him farewell on Sunday.
As a mortal, the saint has been buried, but for generations, parents and those who knew him, will continue to inspire their children by recalling Mian Bashir Ahmad’s life story which is a saga of humility, nobility, generosity and love for all human beings irrespective of their station in life.