Qazi Alif Din: The Mobile “Lok Adalat” of Poonch

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Lok Adalat is an alternate dispute redressal mechanism that finds its basis in the preamble of the constitution wherein securing social, economic and political justice is right of every citizen. The article 39-A of the constitution provides for free legal aid to the marginalized and disadvantaged communities with an aim to promote justice. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also makes it compulsory for the State to guarantee equality before the law.In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament, which came into force on 9th November 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
Lok Adalat is one of the alternate dispute redressal mechanism where cases or disputes incomplete in the court of law are compromised cordially.The Lok Adalat has a chairman, two members, and one social worker. The chairman must be a sitting or retired judicial officer. The other two members should be a lawyer. From a tehsil to district to state to national level there are various legal services authorities. Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 Lok Adalats have been given statutory status and the decision made by the Lok Adalat’s is considered to be a verdict of a civil court and is ultimate and binding on all parties. There is no provision for an appeal against the verdict made by Lok Adalat.
In addition to various legal services authorities there are many spirited citizens in the society who do similar work but they are the unsung heros of society. These people whom God has bestowed with great acumen and cleverness do the arbitration in their respective communities. In this alternate disputes redressal mechanism the arbitrator’s decision is accepted by both parties. Through this piece I am paying tribute to one such great arbitrator and social worker of Poonch district who had devoted his life towards addressing public issues and above all fighting against social evils in the society.
Who was Qazi Alif Din ?
Qazi Alif Din was one of the great arbitrators of Poonch district. He was given the title of Qazi by his community. Qazi is an Arabic word which means judge. Qazi sahib was born in the year 1915 in village Kalai of district Poonch to the family of Abdul Haleem. During the partition of 1947 , Qazi sahib migrated to Pakistan but came back to his ancestral village after living in Rawalpindi for some years. Family condition and non-availability of formal schools those days around his village didn’t allow him to acquire any school education. But this didn’t deter him in seeking knowledge and informal education. When he was around 26 or 27 , Qazi Alif Din started learning urdu and he went on to become one of the finest hands in urdu handwriting. He also learnt Quran when he was in his 30’s and memorized a major portion of it as well. He studied Quran exegesis by various exegete of repute and acquired great knowledge of Muslim personal law.
Alif Din as an arbitrator
The Tribal method of adjudication of disputes mostly relate to family, property and land. He was far and wide known for making informal dispute resolution method by way of arbitration most attractive in Poonch. The modern method of lok Adalat as mentioned above in many ways is similar to tribal arbitration. There are cases which are certainly less effective in term of final dispute resolution but as for as Qazi Ali Din is considered his style of arbitration used to be the best among other tribal arbitrators. Because of this god gifted arbitration acumen Qazi sahib was known for his abilities and wits not only in district Poonch but even in other parts of PirPanjal region vis a vis adjudication of property and matrimonial disputes. On numerous occasions he was called by executive and judicial officers to seek his opinion and ground situations about various issues.
Crusade against money lenders
One of his major service to poor and underprivileged people of Poonch was relieving them from the menace of compound debt. Rural informal credits were supplied at very high rates making the return extremely difficult for poor peasants. There was a group of people involved in providing credits on huge interest and then they would ruthlessly exploit the poor. On many occasions the land of these people would be taken away by these money lenders. He helped many aggrieved by way of arbitration by brining down the interest rates to banking system and sometime helping them in paying back only the principal amount only. This brought him in conflict with informal money lenders and things became very ugly as well on some occasions.
Caste neutrality
During the time of worst division of society along caste lines, he was able to maintain a caste neutral image for himself that helped him engage with all sections of society to maintain an environment of understanding and mutual respect. He was particularly famous among the poorer and those still on margin of society. Qazi sahib was always prepared to help them in all matters. He was among very few people who remained uninfluenced by multiple waves of divisions that swept the region. During high days of militancy, he had become a pointman to represent people who were sandwiched in insurgency. In matter of politics, he always advocated against voting to a person of his caste if he didn’t have merit to his side. He always supported a person or persons who have had an attitude for public relations and stood above caste prejudices.
Campaign against Fake Pirs
Qazi Alif Din didn’t associate himself to any of the sects of Islam. He remained equidistant to all sects. He always believed that all sects carry a certain amount of truth and its the clergy that make artificial difference look real. According to him, there is no difference in the basics, its only the specifics where clerics differed and that common masses have nothing to do with those differences. Throughout his life he stood rock solid against fake faith healers who would loot and exploit people. There are many anecdotes where he personally chased away fake Pirs from villages and ran a campaign against them. His campaign was particularly successful as he could adequately maintain a reputation of being totally sect neutral.
Qazi Alif Din passed away in Dardunia village in Poonch on December 29th 2020 at the age of 105. He was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard where hundreds participated in his funeral.
Hazaroon Saal Nargis ApneBenoori Pe Roti Hai
Badi Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman me Deed Awar Paida…..
(The author is Founder & Chairman of J&K RTI Movement)