In the Name of Orphans — Shrill, Sympathy, Scam…

Orphans queued up for refreshment.

For being the centre of charities in Ramazan, orphans in Kashmir remain on the radar of fraudsters in the holy month.

By Tabia Masoodi, Al-Misda Masoom

HIS rhetoric and subsequent fundraising in a public bus began with the familiar pitch: “Help orphans, for they’ve no one to look after them. It’ll be an eternal reward!”

But the purported noble act drew a sharp retort from an elderly man, “It’s all fraud!”

The dismissive remark, however, didn’t stop some fasting passengers to take out their wallets and give the man some token amount. But most stood silent, grimacing over what they called the daily “bus buzz” in the name of orphans.

People roaming around in buses asking for donations can be seen throughout the year, but their number suddenly surges in Ramazan. These people tend to tap on the emotional as well as religious nerves of the people and somehow they succeed in doing so. And Ramazan being the month of great charity and reward for Muslims mostly drives these destitution appeals.

“The other day a man boarded a public bus I was travelling in and began asking for money for orphans,” Zarqa, a college student, says. “When he refused to leave my side, I got a bit uncomfortable and gave him a few bucks. But I didn’t want to because I can’t trust these people. I believe the administration should take stringent measures to ensure no frauds happen and that too in the name of orphans.”

The orphan-centric charities aren’t confined to public transport only. These days a ‘screaming van’ is making rounds of Sara Siraj’s old Srinagar home with loudspeaker mounted atop — airing an emotional track.

“What’s more annoying than this shrilling act is the sympathy these people create for orphans during this holy month,” Sara, a techie by profession, says. “For any civilized society, orphan or destitute management is an organized act handled with utmost proficiency and professionalism. But our Kashmiri men seeking alms for orphans make it look like some religious ritual. And then, also, you don’t know their credentials. Anyone can come up with those donation slips which most of us hardly bother to check.”

Apart from the car-dropped mendicants—as seen in the recent viral videos in Kashmir—pestering people on streets despite beggary being a banned act in Srinagar, some of these individuals in buses and the screaming vans are clearly having a field day in the blessed month. But the online debates have lately brought them under a sharp scrutiny.

Moin Ul Islam, Chairman of Raahat Manzil, is mindful of the growing public grouse about the sympathetic shrill created by the eloquent individuals in buses and the screaming vans.

“It’s the religious and moral duty to be a source of sustenance for orphans, but it’s also our responsibility to check the authenticity of the cases and claims,” Moin, the orphanage head, told Kashmir Observer.

“There’re cases of fraud but not all of them. Some people have cheated people in our names as well. Unfortunately, this opportunist lot grows during Ramazan—the holy month offering an exponential reward for a single good deed.”

Not only Raahat Manzil, but J&K Yateem Trust has also complained of fraud in their name. However, to check the scam, these orphanages are now resorting to public awareness. The upshot of their media-run campaign is desirable, as most of the families now send their donations directly to orphanages.

“Since we’ve orphanages almost in every locality in Kashmir, it’s better to send donations directly to them,” says Mohammad Ashraf, a religious scholar from Bemina. “That way, we will spare these destitute-managing institutes from roaming on streets and facing slurs. And fraudsters won’t get any chance to cheat and con people in the name of orphans.”

But apart from awareness and direct donations, some people are using internet to disseminate information against these frauds. “With these small tech-based initiatives,” says Noor-us-Sama, a Srinagarite, “we can help save our society from such sins.”

However, in the current scenario—where one bad fish can make the entire pond dirty—the genuine cases are often left empty-handed.

“I give these men in buses and those driving these screaming vans money but my heart is not completely there,” says Furqan, a resident of Nowgam.

“There is this constant thought that what if my money is going into something which is harmful to the society but at the same time I think what if it’s genuine. I don’t want to withhold the money thinking maybe someone will benefit from it.”

At the end of the day, people always have apprehensions about the genuineness of these cases. “I simply can’t refrain myself when they ask for the orphans,” says Hoorain, a daily commuter in Srinagar.

“I believe everyone has to answer for their own deeds in front of their creator. So if some people are frauds, they will be held accountable for their deeds.”

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