Deeply perturbed over the spread of prostitution and the organized trade it had become, even in the heart of Srinagar, Muhammad Subhan Hajam once said: “There are three prostitution centers in Maisuma: one at Takia (Gaw Kadal), the second in a tailoring shop, and the third near a liquor shop. These centers enjoy the patronage of local goons.”
According to him, most women involved in the trade were bhungies (sweepers).
“They change their names and sit in a prostitution center. This relieves them of the hard work of sweeping roads and lanes.”
Hajam tried his best to muster support for his campaign and, to a large extent, succeeded.
Taking care to involve people from all schools of thought, he persuaded seven hundred signatories, including a good number of Pandits and Sikhs, to submit a memorandum to the district magistrate in Srinagar, asking prostitution to be banned.
In it, he suggested making a list of pimps who, according to him, were responsible for spreading the vice.
“A big and strong group is always associated with the prostitutes,” the memorandum said. “We call them dallaas (pimps). They are criminals involved in serious offences. If a list of the pimps is made, and they are called for questioning at regular intervals, the crime rate will also come down.” ‘These people marry women and then sell them for hefty sums in big
cities like Lahore, Calcutta, Peshawar, Bombay, Karachi and Delhi.”
Hajam also suggested barring prostitutes from wearing the burqa (veil). “When the prostitutes use the veil, the life of charactered women becomes miserable. Unless a prostitute proves that she is no longer involved in the detested practice, she should not be allowed to use the veil.”
Hajam also made clear that his campaign was totally apolitical.
“We have nothing to do with politics. But laws meant for political activists are being invoked against us. This is being done with a purpose. Authorities want us to give up our campaign, but that cannot happen.”
When this memorandum was submitted, the government had just exempted female singers from tax.
Hajam objected strongly.
He said that this would encourage prostitution as, in his view, those involved in the trade were mostly female singers who also worked in hotels and houseboats.
Hajam had to face many problems during his campaign spread over several years, but he was too determined to give up his mission.
And when crowned with success finally, he graciously thanked the district magistrate in Srinagar for ridding the city of the vice.
-to be continued