shrinking space for tongas in kashmir

Posted: October 5, 2007 in Blogroll, development

Horse-drawn-cart or locally called tonga, the traditional vehicles are dwindling like the traditions and customs of valley itself. Spaces reserved for them across the towns and cities in Kashmir are invariably shrinking in the valley of Kashmir.
From dawn to dusk these Tongawallas used to move, look for passengers and drop them to their destination. But due to advancement of technology and the concept of global village these historical environment friendly have been slowly and steadily replaced by other means of transport like passenger buses, multi utility vehicles and are on the path of extinction.
One of such historical Addas even today can be seen in southern part of valley, Anantnag, commonly known as Mattan Tonga Adda. This Adda is having the history from Maharajas and was established 93 years ago. But today the chronicle has drastically changed as one can see by the condition of the Adda and Tongawallas in the Adda. The Tongas are no more thought to be historical but are only considered as liability as police always find these strange vehicles comical and mere root of traffic problem.
The Tongawallas are blamed for everything, they are held responsible for any kind of nuisance in the traffic. Tongawallas are dominated by the structures of domination like traffic rules and their life has become a tragedy. Though they are hardly managing to hire Tongas which cost them around 50,000muncipal corporation of the area always treat them as low class people without identity.
Ghulam Nabi Peer, 70 year old, in the profession from last 45 years, who manages to feed 7 members depending on Tonga say’s “Police are always unsympathetic towards us, they rarely respect us as our profession they think is not relevant in modern era. We are being ill treated and totally discriminated against”.
Government initiatives have completely failed in providing better life and livelihood to them. The Adda comprises an area of around 1 kanal in which nearly 50 Tongas are accommodated. Many of the times Govt. has tried to relinquish these Tongawallas from the area even though Tongawallas claim that it is their own property, property of their ancestors. But being illiterate and having no proof of their property against written word of Govt. they are in despondent and desperate condition, as obviously their oral culture can’t challenge the written word.
“Governments of different times promised us several times to provide passenger autos for every two persons but they completely failed in doing so” remarks Ghulam Mohi-uddin, which runs 15 member family having Tonga only source of income.
In this cosmopolitan world and bollywoodization of new generation in the valley, the profession of generations has turned to fade and has largely become matter of social status. The young generation are unwilling to take the profession as the profession itself is considered mediocre by this bollywoodized generation.
Showkat Ahmad, in the profession from last 15 years Says “Pulling carts is like insult these days as people as well as people are mediating otherness to us and our children don’t want to be looked as Tongawallas like their fathers”.
Most of the Tongawallas in Mattan Tonga Adda are dressed up as sadhus. Even in this attire the army and police often arrest them, when there occurs some incident like firing in the area. They are reduced to refugee status and its impact is direct as people are abstaining from taking this incorrigible profession.
“It is poor people who suffer (marta hai to ghareeb hi marta hai)” remarks Showkat Ahmad Wagay

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