The Boatman of Srinagar

During my visit to Srinagar my colleague Dwijendra Kumar and I once stayed in a House Boat for one night. The condition was ,apart from bed ,the boat owner will provide us dinner and breakfast. Name of the House Boat was Mughal E Azam.

In the dinner we got non vegetarian food. Next morning after breakfast I was sitting on the deck. A small boat arrived. The boat owner was selling flowers.I saw from a distance a post office, a bank ATM , a Hospital and a grocery shop operating in the house boats.

The boat owner Akbar came and started discussion.

We are fighting a war for the last 18 years Sir..

Why and with whom ?

Why I don’t know. But with Hindustan and Pakistan.

Then he narrated his story. He had a shop in the Paharganj area in Delhi. Suddenly Kashmir problem began. People stopped coming to his shop. He was for no fault of him branded as a pro -terrorist and had to leave Delhi. His father had a house boat in Dal Lake in Srinagar which he gave Akbar to start a new business.

But non believed him in Srinagar as they feared that he is an agent of Hindustan.

It took five years for Akbar to prove that he is not an agent of Hindustan. His boat survived attacks by Pakistan backed extremists from the valley too.

Then began turture by CRPF and other forces. His boat was under surveillance. Nobody came to stay. He and his friends were economically ruined.

It was Omar Abdullah who helped these poor boat owners for economic rehabilitation.

A decade has passed in the meantime. I was speaking yesterday to my good friend Dr Aziz Hajini from Srinagar.

How are you and our other friends including the boat owner Akbar ? ‘ I asked.

‘We are in a mess. Many have lost their lives and livelihood including Akbar. Corona has failed to do much harm to us. But we are killed by Indo-Pak politics.’He replied with utter despair .

Can I help these friends in Kashmir?’ I asked myself and desperately looked around as the present government at the centre has aggravated the problem but miserably failed to find a solution

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