Boatmen families live under open sky

Boatmen families live under open sky

Demolition at Parimpora yard has left 19 families homeless, promised land already occupied by other community, families sleep on damp mattresses

Muheet ul Islam
SRINAGAR: On a blue nylon sheet spread out on the road, Parveena Bano sits next to her four-month-old infant bitten by a dog on the street. As the mid-day sun beats down, the women of her community are busy hanging their belongings – mattresses, clothes and books – to dry. The midnight drizzle dampened the possessions as the families have been left without a roof on their heads.
Bano, 30, says she has seen the worst time of her life since government demolished the tin sheds their lived in. “I had gone to wash some clothes when a stray dog took my son. Thanks to few people who spotted the dog carrying him, with teeth dug into his arm, and rescued my child. He would have been gone otherwise,” she says.
The three dozen families of boatmen community continue live in such hostile conditions at Parimpora truck yard since last week when government demolished their homes to implement the plan of relocating the General Bus Stand from Batamloo. Around the spaces where families have set up open kitchens, mattresses lay in piles between trucks and heaps of carriage goods. The scene is that is a disaster while families still attempt to rescue whatever little they can find from the heaps of rubble their homes have been reduced to.
Abdul Rashid Dar, a middle-aged man from the community, says that state government had left them on god’s mercy and everyone was worried for the safety of their family. “Our women sleep on the street,” he says. “Men pass by and stare at our girls. Isn’t this a shame for Mehbooba Mufti government? She being a woman should imagine how difficult is it for women to live in the open even for twenty-four hours. We have been here for more than a week now.”
Another member of the community, Kulsum Nazir, who appears to be the only literate women in the community, says that the demolition of their homes had had negatively impacted psychology of the women. She attributes the recent rise in depression among the women at the truck yard to the sudden loss of homes.
“We don’t have a proper place for toilet or for bathing. Two girls recently attempted to commit suicide and I too believe it’s better to die than to face regular harassment,” she says.
Mohmmad Ahnar complains that government was not serious about the future of the boatmen families. He believes that the families would should been allotted a piece of land under the Indira Awaas Yojana scheme before the boatmen community was asked to move out from the water bodies in 1989. The boatmen, after government decided to clear the water bodies, were asked to move to Sumerbugh in the outskirts of Srinagar.
“Last week, when we reached Samerbugh, a group of 100 people from another boatman community attacked us,” he says. “They told us that government has promised them the same land. Concerned Pathwari of Samerbugh and an official from SDA (Srinagar Development Authority) who accompanied us had to run for their lives. We saved them, they could not do anything for us.”
Lateef Ahmad Mandoo, the president of the Baighar Colony at Parimpora Track Yard, told Kashmir Reader that the land at Samerbugh is already a dispute between the residents of Samerbugh and the 60 families of boatmen community living there. Mandoo says, “The residents claim it to be the land meant for their graveyard while as homeless boatmen claim it to be their land as promised by the government.”
I’m now confused and want to know for whom government has allotted Samerbugh land. I request all the concerned authorities to come clear on the issue. No one from government visited us despite promises. Al least they would have seen our kids – how our toddlers and elderly sleep on damp mattress.”
Mandoo alleges that the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir was not doing enough despite repeated visits to his office by delegations of boatmen. “We have trucks loaded with our belongings ready since last week. We are paying 3000 rupees per-day as a rent to truck owners without earning a single rupee,” he says. “Let us know where our land is and we will try and make a life there.”
Kashmir Reader tried contacting the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, but he was not available for comment.

 

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