If a smartly dressed and English speaking Kashmiri youth approaches you as floodhit victims seeking charity, think twice before digging into your pockets. Such people are not among those who were affected by floods, but a part of professional beggars from the Valley.
With a note in their hand, the children, mostly girls, stop people and vehicles, often on the main roads, pleading for financial help. The laminated note reads that they are from Kashmir and have lost their families in the recent floods, which is anything but true.
These youth with chiseled noses and cherub cheeks actually belong to some districts in southern Kashmir, which were not affected by floods at all.
The note reads that nearly 500 such orphans and widows from Kashmir are camping in the Gadhi Kanora slum near Mavaiya crossing.
On checking the vicinity, HT found that they were living in the makeshift tents for years now while the floods hit Kashmir, mostly Srinagar, two months ago.
“It is very risky. These children come before the vehicle all of a sudden to make the vehicle stop and they urge for money,” said Manish Sinha, who was recently stopped by the group near Gomti barrage.
Not that these professional beggers are seen in the city for the first time. Before the floods, they would seek donations on the pretext of earthquake or militancy. The practice is going on unrestricted on the city’s main roads, including Samta Mulak Chowk in Gomti Nagar, Cantt, Kanpur Road, on the flyover near the crematorium and even in Hazratganj market.
A native of Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi, who has been working here as a textile trader for 10 years now, shared his meeting with such groups from his land with Hindustan Times, “When I saw these children on the city roads, I stopped to find out the reason. They claim that they have lost their families in the floods and belong to Kupwara district in North Kashmir-not affected by floods at all.”
Nabi, who lives in Nazirabad, said: “Looking at the large number of such children, I tried to find out the reason and after some investigation in Kashmir, I discovered that there is a group of professional beggars in Kashmir who move to parts of north India during winter season and pleads for money.”
“Some of them are from Chatabal area of Kulgam district. After collecting a good amount in the winter, they return to Kashmir and spend the summer there lavishly. This is an annual practice,” he said.