Public nuisance, and also possibility of mafia involved in illegal trafficking of children
Anantnag: In the holy month of Ramadan, non-local beggars have swarmed Kashmir in the thousands, including women and children, much to the annoyance of locals, particularly in the capital city of Srinagar.
Though there is no official number of such non-local beggars seeking alms in Kashmir valley, they can be seen in clusters of dozens across Kashmir in recent days.
“There is no registration of such entrants into Kashmir and these people do not have any identity proofs on them. This is not only a public nuisance, but it is also a security threat given the situation in Kashmir,” a senior official in the administration told Kashmir Reader, requesting not to be named.
While such non-local beggars have become a common sight in Kashmir lately, their numbers have had a meteoric rise during the month of Ramadan. “We stay here for the month of Ramadan. People here are generous and donate lavishly,” said Babu Ram, a beggar from a far-flung village in Rajasthan, who is here in Anantnag town of south Kashmir.
While beggars thrive on the generosity of the Kashmiri people, they do not leave things to chance. Many of these beggars carry children, who are in bad shape, to gain sympathy.
“Most of these children are not their own and this is another aspect the government here in Kashmir should take a serious note of. Who are these children? Are they being illegally trafficked or just used as pawns with the approval of their parents? These questions need to be answered,” the official in the administration said.
Locals that Kashmir Reader talked to rued that these beggars “hunt” in packs and they almost attack you in the middle of a crowded place. “You can escape one, but they come in packs, and at one point you give up and give the money to them. It is like being looted,” a local in Srinagar told Kashmir Reader.
Most of these beggars can be seen swarming religious places, including mosques, shrines, gurudwaras, and other places of significance. Besides, they have now identified the prominent tourist spots across Kashmir and do not shy away from bugging the tourists as well.
“After much ado, we are having a fine tourist season and these beggars do not even leave the tourists alone. They ensure they follow the tourists around,” people related to the tourism industry told Kashmir Reader.
Voices are growing shriller on social media, where people are asking Kashmiris to stop sparing any change to these non-local beggars. Videos of them being dumped out from vehicles have also surfaced on social media.
“Do not waste your hard-earned money on non-local fake beggars. It is a mafia,” one user wrote on Facebook. Another suggested that this nexus was being run by contractors, who also provide the children to these beggars.
Thus far the administration has not taken any action in this regard. But there is a prior example of government action against these beggars. In 2018, the PDP-BJP government banned begging around public places and ordered the arrest of people found doing so.
Hundreds were subsequently arrested and deported back. Will the administration take a leaf out of the 2018 action by the government remains to be seen.