“Is there not among you a single right-minded man?” (AI-Qur’an 11:78)
Muhammad Subhan Hajam showed that there was no dearth of right-minded men in Kashmir those days, when a major portion of the state’s revenues came from prostitution.
A barber by profession, and hailing from Maisuma, Hajam
was a social engineer, a political thinker, a philosopher, a poet, a revolutionary and a statesman.
Prostitution had been legalized during his times, and was eating into the
vitals of the society.
Hajam would spend only a couple of hours at his shop, earn a few rupees, and come out in the afternoon to fight the vice.
Arrested several times, and booked in fictitious cases, he was also humiliated and offered money to keep his mouth shut.
But Hajam fought on, and won.
Prostitution was banned.
According to old-timers, he would go around neighbourhoods beating a drum, and use witty, self-coined slogans to urge people to keep away from brothels.
The police, the government, the goons who enjoyed the patronage of the prostitutes, and influential people involved in the trade resented his activities.
Though goons manhandled Hajam several times, he continued undeterred.
Authorities booked him under Section 36 of the Police Act.
The charges brought before the City Judge read:
“The accused was arrested for addressing people at Maisuma. He was telling them not to go to prostitution centers. The assembly caused traffic blockade and subjected people to inconvenience.”
Hajam pleaded not guilty.
Rejecting the police allegations, he told the court that he had not blocked traffic as he had gathered people on the roadside.
“Does this act of mine invite the provisions of Section 36 of the Police Act?” Hajam said before the judge, Pandit Bishember Nath. “I have been asking people to desist from immoral practices. I have been stressing on character-building.”
He was acquitted for want of sufficient proof.
And he did not look back.
In Hajam Ki Faryaad, one among a number of Urdu and Kashmiri pamphlets Hajam brought out in his long campaign, he wrote:
“The government takes me very lightly and does not
extend its cooperation. Had the government helped me,
prostitution would have been eradicated by now. The government must
take my reports and statements seriously. That will go a long way in
eradicating this menace.”
“I have faced problems from various quarters. Vested interests have tried
their best to sabotage my mission, but Allah the Almighty helped me, and
I stood like a rock. I have been told that the courts do not award
proper punishment to prostitutes. This will encourage the practice
once again. When a person is arrested for prostitution, I approach respectable citizens of the locality and get their signed statements,
which I have been submitting to the authorities. But I have been
told that some vested interests have been telling authorities that
I extract money from the people. I am only concerned about my mission.
Cheap tactics and false allegations cannot deter me from pursuing it.”
The pamphlet bears no date, and must probably have been published around the time the government had been compelled to consider banning prostitution.
-to be continued