Community ousted by neighbors
Sitting quietly between the Dal Lake and Hotel River Jehlum in the Kursoo Rajbagh area of Srinagar, Kashmir is a small slum community of Bengalis and Punjabis.
While the group of 25-30 families has lived in their cardboard/bamboo homes for nearly 10 years, neighbors are forcing them out despite the landowner’s plea to stay.
“He (the hotel owner) tells us we are doing a dirty job,” Raja Devan, a Punjabi, said. “We can’t accept this kind of man.”
In ten days the group will move five to six kilometers down the road to a new piece of land to build a new slum. Their belongings will be transported by a shared van.
“That is not fair but we can do nothing,” Raja said. “We are very hurting.”
The community’s “dirty job” is collecting and recycling trash from the area. Bags of garbage are gathered, separated and sold to the local recycling plant.
Although Raja claims the Bengalis children do not help their parents work, many are found during the school hours carrying bags of garbage. Unfortunately, the Bengali children do not attend school because most speak Bengali and Hindi and not Urdu, the language spoken in most Kashmiri schools.
Regardless of the hardships faced by this small community, Raja and his friends find reasons to be in good spirits.
“We are very happy,” Raja said. “We work hard and eat well.”