Shafiq, a shikarawala, is being forced to sell off some of his belongings to pay the fees of his son studying MBA in a Pune college while hawker Rafiq is mortgaging his wife’s jewellery to feed his family.
These are some of the moving stories emerging out of a month-long turmoil in the Kashmir Valley which has brought life to a standstill there.
Shafiq says that there were several shikarawalas (boatmen) in the Dal Lake who were selling off their belongings to meet their basic needs.
“The cries of babies are falling on a deaf ear and God knows what are they going to achieve by snatching our bread,” says Shafiq as he rows his boat into the interiors of Dal Lake towards his home.
While talking about his miseries which, according to him, sprung from the beginning of July, his voice became choked and tears rolled down his eyes.
“I made my son study against all odds. I want him to bring all degrees so that he can earn without being dependent on the tourism season,” the 45-year-old boatman said.
Shafiq now plans to sell some of the ornaments and traditional utensils and is eagerly waiting for markets to open for a day so that he can send money to his son. “If these people do not allow the markets to open, I may have to travel to Jammu for the same,” he said.
This seems to be the story of every third boatman. They were looking forward to a healthy tourism season but their dreams were crushed due to frequent strike calls given by separatists in the Valley.
“They have their children well settled abroad or in other parts of the country, its only poor people like us who have to suffer,” says Ghulam Qadir, another boatman.
Rafiq is a daily wager residing in downtown Nohwatta, whose earnings came from selling handicraft items on the famous Bolevard road along the banks of Dal Lake.
After suffering severe losses in his business, Rafiq used to earn enough selling handicraft items.
“The earnings were not huge but were enough to sustain my family of three...Now I have nothing left, so I am left with no option but to mortgage some of my wife’s jewellery. I have a small child to feed,” he says.