May 2004 News

Kashmiris Begging In Mumbai To Survive

22 May 2004
The Asian Age

Mumbai: The influx of Kashmiris into Mumbai's Kherwadi and Bandra areas for the past few years reveals that Kashmiri youth from well-to-do families, who are educated but have no job, life security and peace in the Valley, are forced to come to cities like Mumbai to earn a livelihood. The slums of Bandra and Kherwadi shriek out the agony of the lives of the migratory Kashmiri population trying to make ends meet in an unknown place far from home. Kashmiri women and children, who beg door-to-door, said that they do not have any option. Waqar Wani, a Kashmiri youth, said, 'Zinda rehne ke liye kuch na kuch to karna hi padega.' Wani has passed his XII, but today he is forced to beg in the bylanes of south Mumbai. After many efforts, he had landed a job of Rs 1,000 per month as a watchman when he first came to Mumbai. However, he could not continue his job since it was a temporary contract. Meanwhile, pressure was mounting from his family staying in Kashmir to send money home. Waqar's tale is not uncommon among the scores of Kashmiris struggling to survive. Mr Mushtaque Choudhari, an M.Sc. in physics has recently come to Mumbai in search of a job. He did not have any job in Kashmir, where he had to support his old parents and collect enough money for his sister's marriage. To get an entry into the Indra Nagar slum, located below the Bandra- Kala Nagar flyover housing a large number of Kashmiris, one has to pass through huge water pipes and uneven areas, where it is difficult to maintain balance. At the backside of the slum is Bandra nallah, where tommes of garbage piles up and drain water flows through. A number of families have to cross this passage whenever they want to go anywhere outside the slum. The proximity of the slum to the nallah reminds its inhabitants of the stark realities of life every moment. In Kherwadi region in Bandra East, hundreds of Kashmiri families live in various slums. Earlier, most of them used to beg to survive. However, with no other choice, they have now made begging their profession. Raeesa bi, a Kashmiri beggar, almost cried when she spoke to The Asian Age. She said that they had been innocent victims of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir between the Army and the terrorists. According to her, it was due to this relentless disruption of normalcy in their lives, which made cities like Mumbai and professions like begging, the preferred choice of Kashmiri inmates. 'Begging is not an easy job. When our girls go door-to-door and beg, the youth pass comments, eve-tease them and if they give money, it is only to drive home the point that we are getting their money because we send our girls out,' she says.


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