Anger is rising among the people living outside Kashmir over the influx of “beggars” from the Valley who fleece people by posing as the victims of the conflict or the vagaries of nature bringing bad name to the Valley.
These beggars move into residential areas, colleges, hospitals asking for cash and other incentives by narrating the fictitious tales of distress. Kashmir Life has been receiving numerous calls from Kashmiris outside the state who are concerned about the trend in the major Indian cities from New Delhi to Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore.
“Some people came to us some time back in Okhla and said that they are residents from border areas of Kashmir valley and have suffered due to the turmoil in the valley. Besides, they seek money from people by saying that their families were displaced due to the conflict,” Hashim Sufi, a Kashmiri who lives in Okhla in New Delhi told Kashmir Life.
The beggars, he said, when confronted created scenes to escape.
Another Kashmir, who is a student in Mumbai said, “I caught hold of two youth who said they were from Budgam district of the valley. I took them to Police Station and handed them over. However, later I came to know that they were released.”
He said they moved from house to house saying, “Our houses were burnt, killings happen on every street in Kashmir, we support orphans and widows.”
He said they supported their arguments with letter pads, receipts and papers from non-existent NGO’s and relief centres in Kashmir.
There is no assessment of their numbers, but it easily runs into thousands, a concerned citizen residing in Pune told Kashmir Life.
But, in Kashmir, the moral high ground taken up by Kashmiris to stop the trend seems lost.
A group of students recently wrote to Kashmir Life: “We had a fight with a couple of persons in our office as they started collecting money for some relief in Kashmir. It was nearly a fist-fight. We chased them out after heated arguments.”
“Till date people here knew us as traders or students now we are being seen as beggars too. Faking ordeal has brought a bad name to Kashmir,” Arif Bhat a businessman in southern Delhi told Kashmir Life.
The beggars, in Masjid’s claim victimhood at the hands of army and in temples claim victimhood at the hands of militants.
“They have become aggressive in begging and locals see them as a nuisance,” Arif said.
Besides, using conflict, some beggars hailing from northern parts of Kashmir in Uri and Kupwara plead that their wooden houses were completely destroyed in heavy hailstorms.
Meanwhile, the local Kashmiri students feel the once high-standard of Kashmiris is all but demolished. “We had earned a high status here and everybody was in awe of us coming from a paradise, but now people see Kashmir as some destroyed war zone and us as professional beggars,” said Hashma, a student in Pune.
Recently a video clip went viral on the internet that was recorded by some Kashmiris in Hyderabad outside the mosque. When confronted they claimed they were from Kashmir and were victims of the situation. When insisted not to exploit the situation and bring a bad name to Kashmir, they picked up a quarrel with the person who apparently recorded the video. A young lady and a boy, they had collected good money from the mosque-goers. The video shows them fleeing away while abusing the recorder.
Exposed by social media, interestingly, this trend has been there since 1990. Earlier they would pitch tents in a vast field near the airport in Delhi and go for begging for most of the winter. Later, they expanded their base to other metropolitan cities.