A few days ago, having finished my work, I waited as usual at Dalgate stop to fetch a bus for Jehangir Chowk, to my surprise, an extremely beautiful girl, all decked up, approached me to inquire about a certain gate number which according to her statement leads to the houseboats of the boulevard road. I had mistaken her for a foreigner through the way she had teamed up a Pheran with a pair of skinny jeans underneath, and the manner she spoke to me in English. In short, I was impressed by her eloquent speech and overall attire.
She was going in opposite direction towards the Gupkakar road instead of the boulevard road. I genuinely thought of helping her out. As a responsible citizen, I advised her to take an auto-rickshaw instead of walking alone at the late hour.
There were a couple of reasons for me to instruct her: that she was a foreigner, that she was wearing expensive clothes, and that she was young and beautiful. Anyway, she thanked me and left.
As she had not yet disappeared from my sight, I saw her talking to a cab driver in Kashmiri. The way she was behaving aroused my suspicion as her demeanor did not sound normal to me. No doubt, she was not from the Srinagar city but she was very much a Kashmiri who had come from some far-off district while being completely unaware of the Boulevard area where the houseboats are lodged.
I was wondering what could be the reason for a young woman like her who had come from a far district to board a houseboat at this late hour. However, I left the place in sheer curiosity. The next day, I thought of doing a little homework to find out the truth behind the unsolved mystery which posed too many questions on my inquisitive mind.
Photo: Saqib Majeed Bhat
I surveyed the area in the wee hours, collected as much information as I could and discovered the bitter truth. The area is most susceptible to women and drug trafficking. There are regular pimps who roam around the area to look for prospective customers. The wealthy, middle-class men come in big or small cars to fetch the deal (women). Actually, I did not believe it in the first instance, so I thought of unveiling it. I identified the spots and stood there for a while. No sooner, had I arrived at the particular stop than a car arrived and stopped near me, waited for some minutes, probably, to get me inside it.
There is some kind of understanding between customer and sex worker, the customer is supposed to wait till he confirms the identity of the sex worker. Once confirmed the customer opens the door of the car and the sex worker without any resistance sits in the car.
The area, in other words, has become the red light area of the city because the area is lavishly surrounded by posh hotels and houseboats which are used in the flesh trade.
All my queries got resolved and my inquisitive mind was disturbed over the plight of our pious valley.
The worst part of the story is that trafficking is commercial and women involved in this trade are bought and sold with impunity and trafficked at their will.
We are claiming about women empowerment and rights. Is this women empowerment that we have been talking about? Are women being truly empowered in our social context?
(Author, a resident of Srinagar, wished not to disclose identity)