beggars in India

I worked with an anthropology student named Sophia from University of Berlin. I had already worked with her before a few years ago and it was my second time of work with her. This time she was not working for her university but for a big private publication company in Germany. She just wanted to interview different kind of people and listen to their stories. We met several different kinds of people but most striking news came out of the beggar community living in Varanasi. I had a shop few years ago near to Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi and I knew that there was a group of beggars living near to Dashashwamedh Ghat so I took Sophia there.

I had already heard some crazy stories about beggars living there but had no idea how serious the condition was. They told us so many things but the worse story was about their sexual harassment by local people. We interviewed an old woman who told us that she was raped several times by a local bully who comes to them every night and rapes whoever he wants. There were several girls and all aged women living there and many of them said that this person rapes really young girls who are just 14-15 years old.

They went to the police several times but the police never entertains their complaint only because they are poor and they don’t have any connection in politics. A chai shop keeper who had a shop near to the place where this community lives also said confirmed it. When I asked him why locals don’t take any action against this person, he said that he is a big criminal and nobody can do anything, not even police. He also said that he comes almost every night, chooses any girl or woman he wants and take them away with himself. He doesn’t even take the girls at his home but he rapes just somewhere on the road.

I was shocked to hear all these things happening openly in my society. I just did not know what to do with poor beggars. They also talked about corruption in government policies for them. They said that Government of Uttar Pradesh also has a program for rehabilitation of beggars in Uttar Pradesh but there is so much corruption involved in it and beggars are not benefited by it at all. They talked about a housing program where government is providing free housing to the beggars but government officers ask for bribe in order to provide them a house which is built for them and which is supposed to be free of cost.

They said that government is asking for a lot of documents including local residential proof which sounds hilarious to me. How come a beggar can have a residential proof? They live on the road! This idea of asking for residential proof and other documents seemed really stupid to me. I was thinking about these corrupt government officers who don’t forgive even the beggars. They are begging from the beggars which means that they are bigger beggars. There is a saying in Hindi चोर के घर चोरी Chor ke ghar chori (stealing in thieves home) and now we need to start another saying- भिखमंगा से भिखमंगई Bhikhmanga se Bhikhmangai (begging from beggars).

Nisha in Pain

Nisha is my neighbor. She moved into my neighborhood about four years ago when she married one of my friend’s brother. She is my wife’s friend also. My wife says that her life before marriage was always painful. Her parents were so poor. One of her cousins used to help her family. He was a government employee. But he was not helping Nisha’s family because of their being his cousin’s family but because he wanted to molest Nisha. He used to make physical relations with Nisha forcibly saying that if she would resist it, he would stop helping her family.

Nisha never wanted to go with her cousin but he would come and harass her in front of her friends. She would just weep and could not do anything accept let her cousin do what he wanted. It continued for several years before her marriage, and even after marriage whenever she visited her family. Her cousin now tells her that if she doesn’t make relations with him, he will inform her husband about their relations. She still goes to her sometimes only because she is scared of her husband coming to know about her relations with her cousin.

The above story was told by my wife but I know what happened to her after marriage because she is my neighbor and my friend’s sister-in-law. Right after her marriage she was under huge pressure for dowry. Her husband would beat her nd tell her to bring some money from her family but her parents were so poor so obviously she would accept to be beaten but not ask her parents to give her husband money. Her mother-in-law would not let her husband sleep with her. They slept in different rooms until Nisha’s mother-in-law died.

She would cook the food for the whole family, clean the clothes, clean the home, and get beaten. This was her whole life. She could not even sleep with her husband. Finally she became mentally disturbed. But her husband did not take care of this family. He sent Nisha to her family. Nisha again stayed with her parents for six-seven months, until she became normal again, and during the same time she was again abused by her cousin. Finally she was okay and came back to her husband’s family but this was not end of her problems. She was beaten continuously and was told to bring some money from her parents.

Finally one of her problems ended when her mother in law died but it was beginning of another problem. Now her sister in law got involved in her life. Now she started behaving like Nisha’s mother-in-law. But she did not stop her from sleeping with her husband. Now Nisha gave birth to a male baby. I am sure it was a big help for her. If she had given birth to a female baby, it could have been a huge problem for her.

Her devil husband would have not liked having a female baby, or maybe she went under ultrasound before giving birth to check the sex of the baby. I can believe it because her family seems like they can do anything horrible. Now Nisha’s son is one year old but the problem is that her sister in law doesn’t want her baby to be with her. Her other sister in law keeps the baby busy with her so that he could forget his mother. She always keeps the baby and plays with him, feeds him etc…

Nisha wants to see her baby but she can’t even see him because her husband and sister-in-law won’t let the baby go to his mother. About seven months ago, when the baby was only five months old, Nisha’s husband sent the baby to his other sister in Delhi. The baby still used to breastfeed from his mother but when feeding was immediately stopped, it created tremendous pain in Nisha’s breasts. She was crying in pain loudly because her breasts were full of milk. She wanted her baby to feed from her, but the baby was sent to Delhi. Her husband was not at home this time. Finally neighbors heard her crying and took her to the hospital.

She was fainted by the time she reached the hospital. The Doctor told her to breast-feed immediately. The Doctor said that she would die if her baby doesn’t come and feeds from the mother. Now neighbors called her husband expecting that he would do something. But her husband started beating her in the hospital. The doctor wanted Nisha to be admitted to the hospital so that they could take the milk out of her breast but her husband did not want it. He called his sister who had the baby now.

She also started abusing Nisha. She said why don’t you tell the doctor to stop the milk forever. Nisha’s husband told the doctor to stop the milk. Finally the doctor did something and stopped the milk. Nisha was still in tremendous pain. The doctor kept telling Nisha’s husband to admit Nisha in the hospital for few days but he did not do it. He brought Nisha back home and and started beating her. She was locked up in the room for a few days. She was not even given medicines. She would just cry and cry and nothing else.

Nisha’s husband and sister in laws want the baby to forget his mother so that they can keep the baby and kick Nisha out of the family. That’s why theytortureNisha so that either she will leave the home on her own or die or whatever. But now Nisha has no hope. She can not even go to her parents. They are so poor. Neighbors want to do something against Nisha’s husband but when they ask Nisha about it, she forbids them because she thinks if neighbors take any action against her husband, she will be killed by her sister in law and other family members.

I don’t know what will happen with Nisha but definitely something needs to happen. It is all the impact of our cultural problems where males are given more importance than the females. In Hinduism females are always given more respect than males but I don’t know when it was changed. Prepubescentgirls are prayed to in some rituals. We have the concept of giving high respect to the females but I don’t know who changed it and when. People say that India is developing but what kind of development is this where females don’t have equal rights? Is only male India developing?

We have the most number of professional girls in the whole world which is a very good example for us and it is all the impact of the last twenty years since India has started developing. Our girls have the guts to climb to the top within only twenty years. Isn’t it amazing? Why not promote them? But the reality is something different. In few states like Hariyan, UP, Bihar… the female sex ratio is still decreasing. I hope to see the change but I don’t know when I will actually see it, maybe not in my lifetime.