JK Bank

In last year, autumn, while I was waiting near a taxi stand to board sumo for Kashmir University near GawKadal, Srinagar, I saw a woman; short, wrinkled face, sitting on the roadside with a stick in hand—crying. Her name, Hajira, was sitting aside her go-to-shoulder in her 90s, Shamshada Beg. As I peeked in, the duo was sharing the past that had hit them hard and dragged to nowhere but roadside begging.

Ms. Hajira lost her husband to the early years of armed conflict in Kashmir when the Indian army picked her husband in a crackdown in 1986. “After one month they released him, but he had torture marks all over,” said Ms. Hajira. “After bringing him home, he only survived for a few months.” Since, she lives by her own in a makeshift shed near Kathi Darwaza, Srinagar.

Her three daughters are settled with their marriages, while she has taken to begging for the last fourteen years to meet the ends.

The traumatic struggle of decades has done its impact on her, and the sufferings have caused her Amnesia. She tends to forget most of the things. For the drivers present at the taxi stand, she is like a mother. “When I forget my way to home,” said Ms. Hajira, as she points a finger at a driver, “They drop me home.”

Ms. Hajira’s associate, Ms. Beg, a burka-clad woman sit in the same place as her friend, near the taxi stand.  Her tragedy is no different than her friend, while conflict forced her to beg on roads of Kashmir for the last 11 years.

“After the death of my husband, my only son disappeared in the ’90s,” Ms. Beg told me as he grips Ms. Hajira hands, and cry. “He was found in a village far away from our house, near a stream, with all his fingers chopped off.”

Ms. Beg came to know about her son’s death when her neighbors informed her, as she says, they saw Indian government forces throwing her son’s body.

As per Ms. Hajira and Ms. Beg, other women who beg with them share similar stories, the loss of their loved ones due to conflict.

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Ms. Hajira and Ms. Beg sitting in a taxi stand in Srinagar.
Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla.
Ms. Hajira begging on the roadside.
Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla.
Another woman begging near a traffic signal in Srinagar.
Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla
Ms. Beg begging on road in Srinagar.
Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla
Ms. Hajria sitting aside the passing by vehicles.
Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla
A passer-by giving money to Ms, Beg. Photograph by Muzamil Aftab for The Kashmir Walla

Muzamil Aftab is a Multimedia Trainee Reporter at The Kashmir Walla.

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