Dumped as ‘Disabled’, This Kashmiri Man Is Now a Hope for Needy

Mohammad Iqbal with his tricycle. KO Photos by Saima Shakeel.

Deserted by family, duped by imposters and devastated by natural fury, a specially-abled man from Kashmir fought his odds with his will and wheels to become a support for underprivileged class.

By Saima Shakeel

HIS tragedies are such that they make him an apt case for a charitable cause.

Sensing the same break, a bunch of thugs masquerading as “welfare workers” approached Mohammad Iqbal with a fake promise: “Share your story with us, and we’ll help you start your shop.”

For a struggler earning his living by pedaling tricycle on the busy streets of Srinagar, the offer was too good to refuse.

Iqbal agreed and soon his video was shot. Before leaving, the “imposters” told him that his authentic case would soon change his life.

“But they simply wronged me,” Iqbal said in a sunny fall day in Srinagar.

“They uploaded my video on social media and started crowd-funding in my name. But that public help never reached me.”

Hailing from Kulgam district’s Dumhal Hanjipora area, Iqbal suffers from a rare autistic syndrome. This disability was exploited to make a charitable case for him.

“I never saw them again,” Iqbal said. “Such people take the advantage of some poor and penniless individuals for their own sake.”

The incident left Iqbal traumatised because he had never sought any support in his life. Despite his disability he fights for his own survival with full spirit.

To uphold that upright life, he sells key-chains, pens, copies, nail-cutters, masks, etc on his tricycle. He regards begging as a disgrace to humanity.

“Due to my disability, many people advised me to go for begging but my conscience never allowed me to do that,” Iqbal, who lives in Srinagar from last 14 years, said.

“I don’t want to make my disability my weakness. I work hard to sustain myself. I may be earning less, but I’m happy with that.”

Will and Wheels: Iqbal earns his bread by daily embarking on the laborious journey.   

But years before crossing paths with bluff-masters, Iqbal was discarded by his family during the 2014 deluge itself.

Suddenly, the “disabled” man who lost his tricycle in the floods had become a liability for his family.

“My family deserted me at a crucial moment,” he continued. “I was genuinely broken and as a tenant in Khayam Srinagar, I was finding it hard to sustain myself. But thanks to my friends who helped me buy another tricycle and supported me to get back on my feet.”

Since then, Iqbal starts his journey early in the morning on his tricycle and sells his stuff at the bustling TRC road in Srinagar.

“Many shopkeepers offer me merchandise on credit, but I don’t want to keep any debit as life is very uncertain in Kashmir,” said Iqbal.

This plainspoken nature has earned him many generous clienteles, including bankers, transporters and traders. They purchase pens and notebooks from him and help him in his regular income.

Over the years, this street struggle helped Iqbal to save enough money to embark on the holy journeys to Mecca and Madina.

“My family didn’t even visit me when I was leaving for the pilgrimage,” he said. “But my friends were there and made all the arrangements.”

Without sounding disgruntled about his life’s tragic events, Iqbal is trying to act as a motivation for individuals lacking advantages and abilities.

“I earn my own living and give it to the needy people,” said the disabled man. “As someone who was dumped and duped due to his disability, I know how it feels when you’re in need and without any support.”

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