SOPORE: At the onset of Ramadhan, huge numbers of non-local beggars have proliferated all through the Kashmir valley. Usually arriving in large numbers, these people can be seen begging for alms at all major places and townships like Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara, especially during the holy month.
Typically staying in temporary tents made of tarpaulin sheets in city suburbs such as Srinagar bypass, HMT, Nowgam and Narbal as well as in other areas like Pattan, Sangrama and Tul Bal in Sopore, they sell brooms, cheap toys and other goods to make a living but resort to begging as soon as the month of Ramadhan begins.
These non-local beggars are normally seen in groups, mainly of womenfolk holding their babies, at various important places in the city, especially in commercial hub Lal Chowk, Dal Gate, along the Boulevard stretch, at Jahangir Chowk and in other areas where they chase paedestrians to beg some money. But as soon as Ramadhan sets in, non-local beggars throng places like Mosques, residential communities and business establishments to get some money as people would prefer to donate to them in this holy month of Ramadhan. The non-locals have full knowledge of this as they have been visiting the Valley for the last many years.
“I am from Rajasthan and have been coming to Kashmir every summer for the last five years to earn money. I have seven kids and a wife, who also accompanies me to Kashmir. I sell toys, and the rest of my family begs for money in the same area wherever I set up my sales. At the end of the day, we go back to our tent in Tul Bal, and the next morning the story is the same, only the market gets changed,” a non-local toy seller, whose family members were seen begging around him, told Kashmir Reader.
“We have scores of non-local women and kids thronging the market, seeking alms during Ramadhan. Although this is a month of giving and people don’t mind doling out money to them, but too many of such mendicants result in a nuisance,” said Sanuallah Wani, a Sopore trader.
Some of the beggars can be seen making rounds of localities, which alarms the residents. “We are compassionate people and don’t mind lending a helping hand to people in need. However their numbers keep swelling and they can often be seen roaming around in localities, entering compounds of homes, which makes it unsafe for residents,” noted Tahir Ahmed, a local from Batpora area of Sopore.
Most of these beggars belong to the states of Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. “They are well trained in this with teenagers and children wandering the streets both naked and half-naked, and their women won’t let you go until you pay them. Nowadays they don’t take a one rupee note. They even chase you,” said locals coming out of the Mosque after prayers who often face these beggars.
Ironically these non-locals live in tents in several places, occupying a large proportion of land along highways and main roads, but nobody seems to monitor the illegal occupation. Many residents who spoke to this correspondent expressed apprehension that the authorities deliberately look the other way while the beggar menace grows.
There are also reports that these non-local beggars indulge in illegal practices and substance abuse after sunset.
“We have noticed some of them are often seen, along with a few local rowdies, on drugs during the evenings and indulging in other immoral activities which can deeply hurt the social fabric of our society. There is a need to keep this menace under check before it ends in more undesirable results,” Wani added.