Humera Ashiq Hussain
Make a face, wear some rags and you are the most miserable soul around. This is the story of the beggars who have swarmed the streets of Srinagar.
Donning untidy and tattered clothes these beggars are a common sight outside religious shrines, shopping malls, hospitals, departmental stores etc. Apart from this, they thrive on the streets, traffic signals, road intersection and parks, pestering common people.
Some common voices you hear from these beggars are: Allah ap ki jodi salamat rakhay (if it’s a couple), no matter if they are siblings or share any other relation. Others are mainly: do din se kuch nahi khaya, mera bacha buhat bemar hai etc.
Sympathizing with their pathetic condition is acceptable as you cannot jump out of your skin, but giving alms to them is like contributing to the evolving profession, and contributing to the business of those people who groom these young children into begging by chopping off their limbs.
If we delve into the history of this “lucrative profession”, we find that in the post-colonial era begging was punishable offence as beggars were considered as lethargic, impoverished and morally degraded people. Even today, we get to see that some people get annoyed by the consistent presence and plea of these beggars. Some turn away their faces, some race their engines quickly at road signals, some roll up their car windows, while as some pat their pockets to look for some change and hand over a few coins to the miserable souls in order to get rid of the pestering and unwanted bodies, who are always loitering around.
Considering the exponentially grown population of these beggars in Srinagar, it seems that these beggars might have migrated to Kashmir from all the cities of India. They have found Kashmiris more generous than Delhites when it comes to receiving alms.
Another quality which these beggars possess is their omnipresence. Whether it is scorching heat or biting cold or tremendous flow of rain, beggars of every age will greet you everywhere with their haggard looks, bruised and limbless body, cracked and flaky face. Some who seek the same easy ways of making money have gone to the extent of rendering themselves limbless by allowing the amputation of their healthy limbs, and move on roller-boards.
Sometimes infants are also hired and then carried by these beggars on their shoulders to seek the attention of passersby’s. In some cases, infants are starved and many suffer forceful injuries as their screams would seek high sympathy of people. In such cases many infants give up determination and lose their precious lives. This makes it an issue of serious concern.
With the alarming increase in the number of beggars around the city, another matter of supreme concern is that it has become extremely difficult for people to identify the genuine needy and helpless: some who adopt it because of extreme poverty or some who are disabled.
Movies like Boot Polish, Footpath, Slumdog Millionaire and many others reflect upon these issues. Time and again many such movies give us an insight of the menace and the lucrative business, which victimizes none other than innocent common people.
Let us take a pledge to repress this enrooted menace once and for all. At least every one can make some difference.